'Black Eye Friday': Emergency crews set for busy night
It's the last Friday before Christmas and for many that means a night on the town to celebrate the festive season.
But it's also a time when emergency services are pushed to their limit by the sheer number of people out drinking in pubs and clubs.
'Black Eye Friday' or 'Mad Friday', as it's become known, is one of the busiest nights of the year as they deal with a surge in alcohol-fuelled violence and A&E admissions.
And for West Midlands Ambulance Service that means medical crews are often forced to "babysit fully grown adults" who don't know when they've had enough to drink, rather than dealing with serious 999 calls.
Last year, a 21-year-old man was arrested and taken to hospital after getting drunk and punching a glass window in Shifnal - just one of many similar incidents reported up and down the country.
Jamie Arrowsmith, from West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “The Christmas and New Year period is traditionally a very busy one for the ambulance service, but one that we are always well prepared for.
"Friday night is no different to that, we are aware lots of people will be out enjoying having finished work for the festive season, we just ask them to do so safely.
“Every year we get called to a large number of cases where people of all ages have had far too much to drink.
“Alcohol causes people to do things they definitely wouldn’t do if they were more sober. The knock-on effect of that is that our highly trained medical staff end up having to babysit fully grown adults who don’t know when they have had enough alcohol.
“These staff should be available to treat people who have suffered a life-threatening emergency, such as a cardiac arrest, stroke or serious trauma.
“Whilst we do not wish to spoil people’s fun, we just ask people to be sensible and take responsibility for themselves and their own actions when out celebrating this year.”
Police are also appealing to people to drink sensibly and have extra officers patrolling town and city centres ready to deal with any potential troublemakers.
West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said the force was prepared for a "significant" increase in calls to 999 and 101.
“Throughout the year we work with licensed premises such as pubs and nightclubs to ensure that licence conditions are positively adhered to so that people can enjoy a safe night out. We also work with street pastors who help to keep people safe whilst they are socialising.
“We know that this Friday is likely to be one of the busiest social evenings of the year and we want to facilitate everyone having a good time although we do see a rise in alcohol related incidents and vulnerability around this time of year.
“We will have an increased policing presence on these nights and we will robustly deal with anyone who is out to cause trouble for other people.
"Christmas is a very busy time for the police and the more we can do to help people look after themselves and each other this Christmas will hopefully result in fewer crimes this festive season,” he added.
West Midlands Polices says its officers are also ready to deal with any trouble that might arise tomorrow which is the most popular night for office Christmas parties.
"West Midlands Police is well versed in policing the region's busy night-time economy and will have appropriate resources in place," a spokesman said.
Pubs and bars across the region are also preparing for an onslaught of customers after workers clock off until the New Year.
JD Wetherspoon which runs pubs including The Moon Under Water, in Wolverhampton, The William Withering, in Wellington, and Jewel on the Severn, in Bridgnorth, says it expects venues to be busy but it will be treating the day exactly the same as any other Friday.
Eddie Gershon, spokesman for the pub chain, said: “We expect our pubs to be busy this Friday. There are no special measures being taken and our excellent staff will look after customers.”
Holly Blawlock, who works on the bar at The Bohemian in Wolverhampton, a popular place for office parties, said:"It's going to be really busy. The Christmas period is usually quite rowdy and most people are well behaved."
A bartender at a popular Telford nightspot said that the vast majority of revellers will enjoy their celebrations without anything untoward happening.
"You do get that odd person who doesn't normally drink much thinking that because it's Christmas they can drink what they want and then they get caught out and sometimes it goes a step too far. They make themselves ill or they get into a fight for no reason.
"It tends to be towards the end of the night when most people have had their fun and gone home. But most of the time there's a really good atmosphere because everyone is happy to have finished work for a week or two.
"I think most people want to enjoy the night with their pals and don't want any trouble," said the 27-year-old who asked to remain anonymous.