Star comment: Drink related injuries need addressing

Picture the scene. It’s an A&E ward. The hospital is busy. There are social distancing regulations in place, ample sanitisers and free masks. A man walks in with a bruised hand and fist. It is covered in blood. The attendant asks what help he requires and how he came by his injuries, the answer being patently obvious.

A beer.
A beer.

The issue of drink-related violence and injuries is too prevalent in our society. Men – and it is largely men, though not exclusively – frequently come by injury while in drink. They are abusive, they threaten paramedics, they punch fists through glass and cause extensive, self-inflicted injuries. The problem is all-too-familiar.

Paramedics across our region deal with such episodes on a daily basis, though their time might be much better spent on attending other incidents caused through medical emergency or unavoidable accident. A high proportion of the calls received by paramedics have alcohol at their root cause. The nation has a problem with drink that has become increasingly evident during recent times.

The pandemic has stretched resources like never before. Emergency services receive frequent calls to save the lives of those with chronic respiratory infections as Covid is reluctant to relinquish its grip. Then there are the incidents that paramedics might in ordinary times be expected to deal with. There are accidents and medical emergencies, they are all in a day’s work.

It is clear the nation needs a better attitude to alcohol. Society is too tolerant of drunkenness, particularly at levels that have a terrible impact on others. Alcohol not only eats into the precious resources of our NHS and particularly the work of paramedics, it also takes too much time from our police. Too many hours are spent dealing with crimes associated with drink, while too little is spent on such low-level crimes as burglary or anti-social behaviour, which frequently have a debilitating effect on victims.

An honest and open conversation is required among the population with the Government, health professionals, experts and the drinks industry.

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