MASH-style 'drunk tents' to treat town centre bingers

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The Independent Online

Dozens of makeshift field hospitals will be set up in cities across Britain this summer as emergency services prepare for a surge in drink-related violence. Ambulance officials warned they may be unable to reach other people who dial 999 with life-threatening conditions in time because of the burden they face from drunks.

NHS trusts are planning to set up all-night MASH-style clinics in the streets after successful trials in cities such as Cardiff and Newcastle. One of the largest will be in Croydon, south London, where drunken fans rioted after England's defeat in the Euro 2004 championship. Other places include Newcastle, Cardiff and Liverpool. The clinics will have stretchers, water and basic medical supplies.

Emergency services predict an unprecedented rise in injuries related to alcohol as people take advantage of extended licensing hours during hot weather and use the World Cup as a licence to binge-drink. Ambulance unions said it would help ease the strain on overstretched A&E wards.

About 80 per cent of emergency admissions on Friday and Saturday nights are related to alcohol and the problem costs the NHS £1.7bn a year. The Home Office said police will take a zero tolerance approach to drink-related violence and anti-social behaviour. Emergency services staff says they cannot cope unless they get more funding and and they want the drinks industry to stump up.

Jonathan Fox of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel said: "When people are drunk and confrontational it is difficult to control them. We are expecting a steady rise in drink-related calls." Other 999 calls might go unanswered.

Alcohol Concern has foundpromotions are still fuelling drink-related violence.At one venue, in Coventry, all drinks are 50p.

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