Last year, Epsom and St Helier hospitals saw 153 alcohol related visits to A&E between the months of October to December, with 111 of these patients arriving by ambulance. While not all of these were due to ‘festivities’ they were still cases of over-drinking to the point of needing medical attention.
Joint Medical Director Dr James Marsh said: “For many of us, Christmas is a time for celebrating, and although we would never want to stop people having fun with their family and friends, there are times when people are unaware of their limits and a night of celebration turns into a night needing care in A&E.
“Winter is a very busy time for us (and health services across the country) as the cold weather brings more viruses like flu, it can worsen people’s existing conditions and people are more likely to be injured in a slip or fall in icy conditions.
“Of course, we will always provide care for the people who need us – no matter the time or day – but we would ask that local people drink responsibly and avoid any unnecessary trips to our hospitals.
“Moreover, while alcohol is well known for lowering inhibitions and whilst this helps some people simply feel more relaxed, it can also mean engaging in life threatening behaviour. Impulsive and risky behaviour can result in injuries that require sometimes immediate medical attention, often meaning an ambulance will be on the scene. Nobody wants to spend their big night out in the back of an ambulance or in A&E.”
James’ top tips for low risk drinking are:
- limit how much you drink (drinking more than 14 units per week risks damaging your health – that’s six pints of average strength beer)
- drink more slowly
- drink with food
- alternate with water or non-alcoholic drinks.
But it’s not just the short term effects of drinking that people should be aware of. Abuse of alcohol can lead to long term serious health issues too no matter the time of year, not to mention alcohol dependency. For example, the risk of getting cancer of the throat, mouth and breast increases the more you drink, as well as liver diseases that, if ignored for too long, may require a transplant.
Joint Medical Director, James Marsh said: “We urge people to be careful over the festive period. Abuse of alcohol is an important issue, it can cause several major health issues, many of which aren’t easy or simply can’t be fixed.”
For more information about the risks of drinking alcohol and top tips for cutting down, visit www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/.