24 Nov 2015

Alcohol responsible for 1 in 12 A & E visits

10:52 am on 24 November 2015

Research has revealed that one in eight people presenting at emergency departements during peak times are there for for alcohol-related reasons.

In the largest study of alcohol harm in hospital emergency departments (EDs), the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, monitored eight hospitals across Australia and New Zealand over one week in December 2014, with over 9,600 people screened.

The study found that overall one in 12 - or 8.3 percent - of all presentations were alcohol related.

Researchers said that equated to more than 500,000 patients attending EDs every year across Australia and New Zealand for alcohol related reasons, which it said created a huge impact.

"One drunk person can disrupt an entire ED," said lead researcher associate professor Egerton-Warburton.

"They are often violent and aggressive, make staff feel unsafe and impact negatively on the care of other patients."

The group is calling on Australian and New Zealand governments to introduce firmer measures to limit the availability of alcohol.

"Other jurisdictions should follow NSW and now Queensland in introducing early closing times and reducing the availability of alcohol.

"Policy makers have the power to reduce the tide of human tragedy from alcohol harm," professor Egerton-Warburton said.

Dr Scott Boyes, an emergency department consultant at Hawke's Bay Hospital, told Morning Report drunk patients have a big impact on staff and other patients.

"We did a survey earlier this year which showed that of 2000 emergency staff, 98 percent had been verbally abused, 92 [percent] had physical threats or harm to them and 88 percent their care for other patients was negatively or very negatively impacted by alcohol-related presentations.

"So it's a huge distruptive factor on care we provide people in the emergency department.

Doctors are trying to change the culture around binge drinking, and want availability of alcohol reduced, he said.