Healthy living

A&E teams get ready for 'Mad Friday'

A&E teams get ready for  Mad Friday Braced for fall-out from Christmas parties

Emergency services are gearing up for a "Mad Friday" double whammy over the next two weeks.

The last Friday night before Christmas - Mad Friday - is usually the busiest night of the year for A&E teams, who have to deal with the fall-out from Christmas celebrations.

But this year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, which means that hospitals and ambulance services are getting ready for two Mad Fridays, on both 16 and 23 December.

Around 40 per cent of all A&E attendances are for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses, but this increases dramatically in the run-up to Christmas.

Last year, some 6,681 people called the London Ambulance Service alone on December 17, while the average for a Friday night is around 4,000.

Extra emergency staff have been drafted and treatment centres have been set up in busy city centres across the country including in London, Cardiff and Birmingham.

In London, a walk-in alcohol recovery centre has been set up at Liverpool Street station, to attend to party revellers from city bars, while another in the West End is open for ambulance crews to treat patients.

"The centres mean we can treat patients who've had too much to drink in a safe, dedicated and well-equipped environment, and the vast majority don't need to go to A&E," said Phil Prentice, ambulance operations manager.

A similar temporary minor injury unit (TMIU) in Birmingham on Broad Street has already dealt with more than 100 of the "walking wounded," nearly half of whom were treated on Saturday December 10th alone.

"The types of patients we see at the TMIU are those who have had too much alcohol, suffered cuts, bruises, sprained ankles and a range of medical conditions. These patients don't need a trip to A&E, but do require some form of treatment, " said Nathan Hudson, general manager at the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Meanwhile, ambulance services in Cardiff have drafted in extra staff, set up mobile treatment centres and have extra rapid response and High Dependency vehicles for those "who over indulge in alcohol."

Dafydd Jones-Morris, Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, appealed to the public to treat staff on duty with respect: "Unfortunately we also see an increase in abuse of our staff over this period of the year. Please treat our staff just as you would wish them to treat you..after all it is Christmas for them as well."

The NHS has also launched a series of Christmas Special videos on YouTube which urge the public to think carefully about whether they really need to go to A&E.

Derek Cartwright, Director of Emergency Services for North West Ambulance Service, said: "We are asking party goers to drink responsibly and stay safe whilst out enjoying themselves during the festive period.

"The Friday before Christmas is always the busiest night of the year for the ambulance service, and this year we have two. We often see an increase in alcohol related calls at this time of year, many of which can be avoided.

"In genuine life-threatening emergencies, time matters. If people stop and think about drink this Christmas and take a sensible approach, they can play their part in ensuring ambulance crews are free to attend to vulnerable and very poorly people.

"It is also important to remember hangovers, headaches and feeling under the weather after a night out can generally be treated in your own home using medicine from your local pharmacist and getting plenty of rest."

This article was published on Fri 16 December 2011

Image © Yurok Aleksandrovich -

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