Study highlights issues alcohol causes for ambulance staff

Research has found that almost half of North East paramedics have been subjected to alcohol-related physical assaults while on duty.

The study, by Fuse associates at Teesside University and Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, also revealed that two in five of the paramedics surveyed have been sexually assaulted or harassed by patients and members of the public who have drunk too much.

Academics from the University’s School of Health & Social Care worked on the research with the findings now published in the British Paramedic Journal.

Working with Balance and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), they carried out a survey of more than 350 paramedics. The results lay bare the true feelings of the hard-working staff who have to deal with alcohol-related incidents on a daily basis, with three in five saying they shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of alcohol misuse.

The research also revealed:

    • More than 9 in 10 NEAS paramedics feel that dealing with alcohol-related callouts places an unnecessary burden on their time and resources
    • Two-thirds of paramedics said alcohol-related incidences accounted for at least half of their workload during weekend evenings
    • Two-thirds of paramedics stated that they felt at risk of physical assault when working in the night time economy
    • Nine in 10 have been threatened at least once and almost half six or more times
    • Two-thirds of paramedics stated that in excess of 75% of callouts for assault were alcohol-related.

"The research clearly shows that ambulance staff are experiencing high levels of assault and fear of assault and that current training needs to be revisited"

Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch

An experienced female paramedic, who took part in the survey, said: "I’m regularly sworn at by patients, their friends or relatives. The fear of being assaulted or sustaining injuries is increased when dealing with intoxicated patients."

In the UK, alcohol related harm is estimated to cost society between £27billion and £52billion annually. Healthcare costs associated with caring for those with alcohol related problems alone are estimated to be £3.5billion.

Fuse associate Professor Newbury-Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research at Teesside University, said: "For front line emergency staff, the incidence of contact with patients with alcohol related injury or illness is increasing, along with a general increase in workload."

She added: "The research clearly shows that ambulance staff are experiencing high levels of assault and fear of assault and that current training needs to be revisited.

"Frontline staff are in a unique position where they are dealing with patients at their most vulnerable and have to make life and death decisions on a daily basis. They should feel safe in their work environment and more needs to be done to ensure this is the case and that they receive adequate training and support in dealing with intoxicated patients and alcohol related call-outs."


Adapted with thanks to the Teesside University.  Photo: Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch with Dr Emma Giles. 

Last modified: Tue, 31 Jul 2018 09:13:37 BST