Binge drinking diverts A&E resources and expertise, say Queen’s Hospital staff

Jack Stevens, matron at the A&E department, tells the Recorder binge drinkers can drain the emergenc

Jack Stevens, matron at the A&E department, tells the Recorder binge drinkers can drain the emergency department's resources - Credit: Archant

An A&E matron has warned that binge drinkers are “draining resources and expertise” at hospital emergency departments.

As Dry January comes to a close, Jack Stevens, A&E matron at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) which runs Queen’s Hospital, Rom Valley Way, Romford, said many admissions could be avoided if people drank in moderation and appreciated their own limits.

“If we have a run of them, we know that it is linked to a club in town doing a deal,” said Mr Stevens, who said people need to be made more aware of how much they are drinking.

New government health guidelines have reduced the amount of alcohol people should drink a week.

Binge drinking can make it difficult for the patient to breathe, which can be life-threatening.

In such a case, patients need intensive care and are closely monitored, which absorbs a lot of the service’s resources.

Mr Stevens said some patients come in with “reduced levels of consciousness” after binge drinking.

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“It is draining resources and expertise, and with the pressures on the NHS, this could be avoidable,” he said.

Binge drinkers need to be regularly monitored by staff are less likely to be treated and discharged within the four-hour target, leading to delays in the service.

But Mr Stevens stressed stereotypes about patients with alcohol-related problems need to be broken down.

“We are not here to judge but here to support, manage and treat people,” he said.

All patients are treated depending on their condition, which in many cases can be a head injury or a fractured ankle, rather than consuming too much alcohol.

Blood tests can establish if they need extra care because of intoxication.

“They can be loud, cheeky and a bit aggressive,” said Mr Stevens, who warned this can have an impact on other vulnerable patients in nearby cubicles and on the workflow of the service.

A&E has 24-hour security to prevent such patients from “dominating”, but this could become an issue if the patient has brought “a whole raft of mates” with him.

But Mt Stevens said the A&E department is multi-functional and staff can contact the Alcohol Liaison team when a patient has a dependency problem.

“Alcohol can be a driver for many things but is also a consequence of lots others,” said Mr Stevens, who said understanding what led the patient to drink helps staff to provide better care.