Ambulance crews set for Mad Friday as Christmas party season hits peak


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Hundreds of people across the country will call out ambulances or be treated in hospital tonight as a result of over-indulging in alcohol.

Emergency services are preparing for the night they call "Mad Friday", with extra staff being called in by crews and hospitals across the country for their busiest night of the year as huge numbers of Christmas parties get under way.

In London, Cardiff and Birmingham, temporary alcohol related injury units or field hospitals will be set up in popular drinking areas, and elsewhere ambulance services are preparing for the annual peak, both in injuries caused by drinking, and the unpleasant consequences of just plain overindulgence.

The snow and the frozen pavements of last year combined with the booze to make it the worst on record. The London Ambulance Service saw a 23 per cent increase in call outs for drink related injuries, though the actual figure is likely to be significantly higher, as the alcohol element may not get recorded in all incidents. On December 17 last year, 6,681 people requested an ambulance – the average for a Friday night is around 4,000.

The North West Ambulance Service, covering Manchester and Liverpool, received 600 extra calls between 10pm and 4am compared to the previous week. The London Ambulance Service's "booze buses" – mobile treatment centres that operate in the West End – picked up nearly 300 "passengers" throughout the festive period last year. They usually run only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but will now be in service every night until Christmas Day. There is another alcohol treatment service at Liverpool Street Station, near many bars popular with City workers.

"People fall over, hit their heads, twist their ankles and so on, but mostly they're just very drunk and need looking after," said Laura Palts for the London Ambulance Service. The booze buses can take up to five people at one time, and they only take alcohol related calls.

"If it's minor they'll get taken to our alcohol treatment centre in the West End, to sober up and eventually go home. This takes pressure of the various Accident and Emergency departments."

On Broad Street in Birmingham, a smaller city centre treatment unit has already been in action every Friday and Saturday night since the start of December. It treated 42 people last Saturday.