Survey reveals extent of alcohol-related abuse

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Emergency workers face shocking levels of alcohol-related abuse, new figures reveal.

Police officers, paramedics and firefighters have been punched, threatened and spat on as they stand on the front line at times of emergency.

A new staff survey reveals 999 workers report that alcohol misuse is a contributory factor in around half of incidents.

A third of blue-light workers reported that they had been subjected to physical abuse while attending an alcohol-related incident within the previous four weeks, while two thirds said they had experienced verbal abuse.

Roughly half of all incidents that 999 workers attended were alcohol related and almost two thirds of emergency personnel had faced difficulties in securing urgent information because of victims or callers being intoxicated.

Anonymous responses to the surveys depict the sad reality facing those on the frontline.

One firefighter recalled: “I was in breathing apparatus at a house fire and I found a man lying in his bed. He had tried to cook after coming back from a night out but he was drunk and fell asleep.

“The smoke alarm was blaring but he only woke up when I shook him to see if he was alive. He punched me in the face.”

An ambulance crew member shared: “I have been assaulted, spat at and verbally abused too many times to mention.

“If people could only see the effect they have on an incident when they’re under the influence of alcohol. We have to spend as much time looking after our own safety as looking after our patient.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams of Police Scotland said: “The demands being placed on the emergency services by people who are drunk are huge.

“On many occasions, it delays police officers, firefighters and paramedics from getting to members of the public who really do need our protection and help.”

Assistant Chief Officer David McGown of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service added: “The public will be shocked to hear our frontline firefighters and control officers are often abused and obstructed by people under the influence of alcohol.

“They are all working to save lives and protect property. Being drunk is absolutely no excuse for impeding emergency responders or directing abuse at them. We are determined to get the message across – this is reckless, criminal behaviour that risks lives and it can never be tolerated.”

Daren Mochrie, the Director of Service Delivery for the Scottish Ambulance Service, commented: “Alcohol has a significant impact on ambulance operations across Scotland.

“Crews are responding to alcohol related incidents every day of the week and at all times – it is no longer a weekend phenomenon.

“Our staff are highly trained specialist clinicians who all too often have to respond to people who are simply intoxicated, delaying their response to patients with a genuine medical need.

“There can also be wider impact on our operations as precious resources often have to be taken off the road to be cleaned after an intoxicated patient has been sick, which takes time and removes an ambulance that could available to respond to a medical emergency.”