To measure the prevalence, pattern and associated financial cost of alcohol-related ambulance call outs in the North East of England using routinely collected data from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).
A retrospective cohort study over a 1-year time period (1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010) using NEAS patient record forms.
In the North East, 10% of ambulance call outs were alcohol-related. Males were 2.5 times more likely than females to be attended by an ambulance on the street rather than at home. People aged 10–19 had the highest relative risk ratio (3.4) of an ambulance pick up being on the street compare with those aged over 60. These call outs and subsequent accident and emergency (A&E) attendances cost over £9 million in a 1-year period. When extrapolated to the whole country the cost could be as much as £152 million per year.
In a 1-year period, we estimated that over 31,000 ambulance call outs were alcohol-related. A large discrepancy was found between manual and electronic recording of alcohol-related ambulance attendances to A&E. The workload and cost of alcohol-related call outs is high and mostly preventable. Ambulance visits may present a teachable moment for brief intervention to reduce alcohol-related risk and harm.
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