EMERGENCY services are today on red alert for what has been dubbed “Mad Friday”, the busiest day of the year.
Last year, the Friday before Christmas saw alcohol-related arrests in Leeds city centre shoot up 240 per cent. Ambulance callouts also soared by a third, and the city’s A and E departments saw more than 500 admissions. Chief Inspector Jaene Booth, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Unfortunately, while Christmas should be a time for celebrations, we know from past experience that some people take these too far and end the night ill, injured or in a police cell.”
IT’S NOT CRAZY TO CELEBRATE SAFELY ON ‘MAD FRIDAY’
The Friday before Christmas is dubbed ‘Mad Friday’ by the frontline 999 workers who are tasked with protecting alcohol-soaked revellers from themselves as they enjoy their festive fun.
The region’s emergency teams are expecting tonight to be the busiest night of the year. But really they are hoping for their own Christmas miracle - that partygoers will heed this early warning, and perhaps reverse that disturbing trend.
Figures obtained by the YEP reveal that last year alone, alcohol-related arrests in Leeds city centre on ‘Mad Friday’ shot up by 240 per cent from the Friday before, and ambulance callouts in the region soared by almost a third.
On an average December Friday from 6pm to 6am, Yorkshire Ambulance Trust receives 870 calls to its Wakefield base. On ‘Mad Friday’ 2012, there were 1,130 calls.
The picture was similar for West Yorkshire Police’s festive task force.
In the 24 hours from 7am on Friday, December 21, 2012, the number of alcohol-related arrests in Leeds centre shot up to 24, from just 10 the previous weekend, a 240% increase. Meanwhile Leeds’s hospitals saw 538 people come through the doors of the accident and emergency departments on this night.
The emergency teams want to avoid ultimate tragedies like the one-punch death of father-of-two Darryl Kerr during a confrontation outside a Leeds nightclub on Friday, December 21 last year. The 43-year old suffered devastating injuries from a single blow to the neck outside Bar Fibre, on Lower Briggate. Teenager Luke Boyes was jailed for his manslaughter. The incident was described by a senior policeman as a “drink-fuelled moment of madness”.
Today, the region’s emergency services workers are uniting to urge those out celebrating tonight, and over the festive period, to drink responsibly.
Chief Inspector Jaene Booth, from West Yorkshire Police, said: “Unfortunately while Christmas should be a time for celebrations with friends and family, we know all too well from past experience that some people take these celebrations too far and end the night ill, injured or in a police cell.
“We want people to be able to enjoy the festive season safely and I would remind people again to plan their nights out, stick together, make prior arrangements for safe transport home and not to make themselves vulnerable through binge-drinking.”
Dr Julian Mark, Executive Medical Director at Yorkshire Ambulance Trust, said: “The high number of calls we receive in the run up to Christmas and the New Year, particularly on the last Friday before Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve itself, puts the service under significant pressure and makes it more difficult for us to ensure we can respond to all of our patients quickly.
“Our emergency ambulances are a lifeline in a genuine life-threatening emergency such as a heart attack or stroke, but our staff are often involved in looking after people who have drunk excessively or have sustained alcohol-fuelled injuries which could have been avoided.
“We’re certainly not trying to stop people enjoying a night out, but ask that they drink sensibly to avoid the need to call 999 and keep ambulances available for those with a genuine need.”
Ian Bitcon, area manager for Fire Safety at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, reminded people that alcohol can stay in the system until the morning after, and that alcohol and late-night cooking do not mix.
“When you return from a night out, don’t set about making a meal,” he said. “Remember, if a fire starts in the home, you could lose all your Christmas presents, or worse still. Make sure your Christmas is not ruined by the devastating reality of fires or road traffic collisions.”
Meanwhile nursing sister Adene Spencer, who works at St James’s hospital, urged people who do find they get ill or are injured over the festive period to make sure the casualty department is the right option for them before they go to hospital. “Nobody wants to have to come to hospital, particularly at this time of year, but emergencies happen and therefore Leeds hospitals will be running a fully functioning A&E service over Christmas and New Year,” she said. “It’s a busy period for us,” she stressed. “A&E is only for urgent and emergency treatment that really cannot wait and by attending inappropriately you could be delaying treatment for more seriously ill people who do need our attention.”
Between noon and midnight tonight, West Yorkshire Police will be taking part in a ‘Mad Friday’ tweetathon - #WYtweetmas - as part of its Be Safe This Christmas campaign. Chief Inspector Booth said: “We will be tweeting a snapshot of the calls we receive as people start leaving work and in to the evening as the drink really starts to take its toll. Our hope is an insight into the situations other people get themselves into will help others think about their own behaviour.”
The tweetathon is also highlighting increases over the festive period in incidents of violent crime, domestic abuse, drink driving and theft. Visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/besafe.
FIRE CREWS IN FESTIVE STRIKE ACTION
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced Christmas and New Year strike action over its ongoing pensions row.
Crews across the region will stage walkouts on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Assistant Chief Officer Dave Walton said: “The choice of strike dates and times by the FBU coincides with periods when families and friends will be gathering to celebrate, which traditionally can prove to be risky periods. We ask that people take extra care in order that celebrations can pass without harm.”
ARMY OF FESTIVE ANGELS WATCHING
If Christmas is about giving, then there are none more giving than the hundreds of frontline emergency staff who sacrifice time with their families in order to watch over the rest of us over the festive period.
Among this army of festive angels are staff based at Yorkshire Ambulance Trust’s Wakefield headquarters - including paramedics, nurses and call-handlers manning the 999 and 111 response centres.
Paramedic supervisor Bob Greenwood has worked his fair share of Christmases over his 30-year career, and he will be on duty again next Wednesday. He said one of his most memorable shifts was when a baby was born in an ambulance near Hebden Bridge early on Christmas morning - and colleagues sang Silent Night over the radio to mark the occasion!
This frontline taskforce are loathe to be called ‘heroes’.
Tony Byrne, a call handler, has worked eight Christmases in a row. “There are plenty of people out there putting their lives on the line for us, answering a phone call is not that big a deal,” he said.
“But it is nice at the end of a call if you have been able to help someone and they say ‘Happy Christmas’. Not many jobs can give you that satisfaction.”
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust’s chief executive David Whiting said: “Staff working as part of our emergency ambulance service know the commitment required to work as part of a 24/7 service when many will be enjoying the festivities at home with family.
“I would like to thank all of our staff working over the festive period for their continued dedication, commitment and professionalism during what will be a busy time.”