Warning to Leeds party-goers to stay safe at Christmas

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One in five attendances at leeds accident and emergency departments over the weekend are due to the impact of alcohol. Katie Baldwin and Laura Bowyer report.

ONE in five attendances at Leeds’s accident and emergency departments over the weekend are due to alcohol, new figures show.

A survey by a city doctor also found that a third of the men going to the Leeds General Infirmary unit between Friday and Sunday were there because of the impacts of booze.

In total, 20 per cent of visits were alcohol-related, with the highest at LGI, where it was almost a quarter of attendances.

At nearby St James’s Hospital, it was slightly lower at 15 per cent.

The shocking statistics have been revealed as the Yorkshire Evening Post begins a week-long series warning people to stay safe while they take advantage of the city’s bustling night scene in the run up to Christmas.

Dr Dafydd Hammond-Jones, a specialist trainee in emergency medicine, carried out the survey involving nearly 1,000 patients over a weekend in September in Leeds.

He said that the numbers of those coming to hospital because of alcohol affected hospitals: “We have got lots of patients coming in.

“If they [the alcohol-related attendances] were not there, there would be less pressure.”

Dr Hammond-Jones, who is now working at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, said the reasons for people attending because of the impact of alcohol were varied.

“At Leeds General Infirmary it was primarily injuries and at St James’s Hospital there was more alcohol intoxication,” he said.

“Overall 47 per cent were injuries and 33 per cent was because of intoxication, while 13 per cent was mental health-related.”

Overall, two-thirds of the A&E attendances because of alcohol involved men, with more men than women visiting the LGI.

Younger people made up most of the visits at both hospitals, with the greatest numbers of patients aged between 16 and 20 and the vast majority under the age 40.

The busiest time for booze-related attendances was between midnight at 7am and a quarter of those going to A&E at St James’s were admitted, with the figure at 17 per cent at the LGI.

Stephen Bush, clinical director of Urgent Care at Leeds Teaching Hospitals added: “The large numbers of people we’re seeing attending with alcohol-related conditions adds extra pressure to our emergency departments and NHS services in the city.

“We see lots of people waiting in A&E with injuries and illnesses caused by alcohol which could have been avoided drinking a little bit less.

“With one in five people attending with a condition related to alcohol, according to a recent audit, clinicians at St James’s and the LGI would really like to reinforce the message of being alcohol aware.

“We want to encourage people to think before you drink; consider your safety on a night out and be aware of the volumes of alcohol you are consuming.

“It’s much better for people to drink in moderation, have a good time and get home in one piece, rather than spend the night with us in accident and emergency.”

Nationally, alcohol is believed to cost the NHS £4bn a year and booze-related deaths have more than doubled in the last 10 years.

In Leeds, there are over 17,000 dependent drinkers and 35,000 people whose drinking puts them at high risk.

In 2011, the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed that the cost of alcohol-related incidents and illnesses had cost the city £438m in one year.

And the following year it was reported that children as young as eight had needed hospital treatment in Leeds because of booze, with under 18s making up 2.5 per cent of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the city.

West Yorkshire Police have today also revealed they are preparing for a spike in arrests relating to alcohol on one of the busiest days of the city’s night-time calendar known as “Mad Friday”.

The night is often the last pay day before Christmas and is a popular time for office workers to celebrate the start of the festive period.

Last year police officers made 29 arrests in the city centre on Friday, December 20.

It is believed that 10 of those arrests were for made for drunk and disorderly offences.

But statistics reveal that on the previous Friday police made just FOUR arrests for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

West Yorkshire Police have teamed up with a number of agencies as part of their Operation Champion blitz over Christmas.

Taxi marshals, door staff, the Street Angels, Businesses Against Crime in Leeds and Yorkshire Ambulance Service have joined forces to provide a co-ordinated response to ensure that people enjoy a safe night out in the city centre over Christmas.

Whether it is helping to signpost crowds, disperse anti-social behaviour or help revellers who are a little worse for wear they hope that by teaming up they will be able to offer support and advice to people who are accessing the city at a night time.

And West Yorkshire Police hope that early intervention will prevent people from being admitted to the city’s accident and emergency departments as well as decreasing the number of arrests made for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service has warned it is due to see a “significant influx” of calls due to alcohol-related incidents.

Dr David Macklin, interim executive director of operations at the Trust, said: “The service has received hundreds of 999 calls for seasonal-related illnesses and incidents.

“We are treating a lot of patients with breathing difficulties as a result of cold and viruses.

“As we approach a busy weekend of pre-Christmas celebrations and office parties we expect there to be a significant influx of calls to alcohol-related incidents. These calls are in addition to other medical emergencies such as injuries from road traffic collisions, heart attacks and strokes.

“While many people do use our emergency service appropriately, some callers could be helped by other more appropriate health care services.

“We would ask people who are out and about to be conscious of how much they are drinking, eat beforehand and make sure they plan ahead for transport home.

“We would like to thank members of the public for their support during this challenging period.”

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member for cleaner, stronger and safer communities, said the authority is expecting hundreds of thousands of people to access the city centre during the run up to Christmas.

He said: “Leeds is a great place to access on an evening.

“It has a fantastic offer and we want people to come in and enjoy the festive period.

“There will be many thousands of people accessing the city over Christmas.

“We want the vast majority of those to have a great experience and go home safely.

“A few mistakes on a night out could have terrible consequences for other people as well as for yourself.

“You do have a duty to yourself and to other people about how you behave when you are visiting the city.”

Coun Dobson added: “Accident and emergency services are under incredible strain.

“It should be that last resort and not a first port of call.”