Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Booze Bus' Crews Face a Busy Christmas as Binge Drinking Skyrockets in London

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Booze Bus' Crews Face a Busy Christmas as Binge Drinking Skyrockets in London

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Blunden

EMERGENCY calls for special ambulances that treat severely drunk people in central London have soared this Christmas.

The Friday before Christmas is dubbed "Black Friday" by paramedics because they face an increase in drink-fuelled violence every year.

Emergency services are expecting 999 calls to rocket this evening, along with violent attacks, threats and abuse from inebriated revellers.

The Evening Standard accompanied a crew of a London Ambulance Service "booze bus" into the early hours of this morning on one of the busiest nights of the party season.

With revellers undeterred by the freezing weather, medics scooped up off the street a steady stream of walking wounded -- most heavily affected by festive binge drinking.

The team suffered shocking verbal abuse from one young professional who had also snorted cocaine.

The Transit-sized booze bus can fit five patients, and operates from 7pm to 7am. It's aim is to free up standard ambulances for more serious calls.

After a 999 call, the first dispatch from their Waterloo base was to a man who had fallen down stairs in the Old Coffee House in Soho.

Once in the booze bus, Tom, a 32-year-old business analyst, became angry and offensive.

Paramedic Toni Agnew, a mother of two, gave him short shrift as she dressed his gaping head wound after he told her: "F**k off! I don't need your help."

She asked him what he had been drinking, to which he replied: "Everything".

She also quizzed him about the white powder around his nostrils.

This kind of abuse is worryingly common, and police are often called if the threats escalate.

On the way to St Thomas' Hospital in Waterloo to stitch Tom's head (but not until he was sober) the bus picked up another casualty. This man had blood pouring down his face after slipping on the dancefloor at a pub on Blackfriars Bridge. Both patients wore orange "vomit bibs" around their necks, an award-winning design by Ms Agnew that has been rolled out nationwide. Back in Soho a well-spoken business student, Rupesh from Oxford, suffered a cut lip and broken tooth chasing a mugger. He had been drinking red wine, which along with brandy and vodka is one of the most potent drinks the crew deals with. …

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