Southport is one of a number of locations in the UK launching a new national scheme, the first of its kind, to treat people affected by alcohol over the festive party period.
Based in the heart of the resort, the Alcohol Recovery Centre is operating from 12 December until 3 January on a Friday and Saturday night when pubs and clubs in the town are at their busiest. It will be equipped with several beds and showers, offering those who have become vulnerable due to alcohol on-site support from health care professionals.
The Alcohol Recovery Centre is being led locally by NHS Southport and Formby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) working with Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, Merseyside Police and North West Ambulance Service and volunteers from local faith groups. Based inside Parenting 2000 on Mornington Road, the centre aims to reduce the number of visits to accident & emergency (A&E) departments allowing doctors, ambulance crews and police to concentrate on the most urgent cases who really need their care and support.
Dr Rob Caudwell, chair of NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “Southport’s night-time attractions are a real draw for people from across the region at this time of year and whilst the majority will enjoy themselves safely, for the small numbers who become ill the Alcohol Recovery Centre will make a big difference to the way they are cared for. We will be able to follow up patients to ensure they have any support and advice they might need around safe drinking levels to prevent more serious health problems in the longer term.”
Moira McGuinness, alcohol lead for the CCG, said: “The level of emergency hospital admissions for alcohol related liver disease is significantly worse in Southport and Formby than the national average. We also have high levels of binge drinking in pockets of our population. So, this is a great example of partnership working at its best and if it works well we’ll be looking to run it again during busy party periods in the future.”
Southport is the only North West area to be taking part in the programme. The programme is a multi-agency partnership between the NHS, The National Licensed Trade Association (NLTA), the Police and the Drinks Industry. It has been made possible by a £½ million grant awarded by the NLTA with funds raised from another of its initiatives – Barcode. Barcode is at the heart of the NLTA, a not for profit organisation formed to raise awareness of alcohol consumption and retailing. Barcode itself is a member-driven training programme, which aims to redefine the way we think about alcohol by delivering a national standard of competence within the drinks industry.
Alan Owens, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, said: “It is hoped that the opening of this unit will relieve some of the pressure on the emergency services and the accident and emergency department at Southport. Also, through the work of the Hospital Alcohol Liaison Team (HALT), delivering brief advice will provide a wider benefit to the health economy and the community in general.”
Bob McGowan, Sector Manager for Cheshire and Merseyside North, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this initiative and the aim of the Centre is to ensure that those individuals who are in need of assistance due to the effects of alcohol, and are within the town centre, receive the most appropriate care. This will positively impact on the number of ambulance resources required to attend incidents within the town centre, and could help reduce the number of patients admitted to local A&E Departments. If patients do require hospital treatment, they will be conveyed to hospital.”
Southport neighbourhood inspector, Darren Wilson, said: “This is an excellent idea and we are pleased to be involved in making it happen in Southport and Formby.
“A lot of people like a drink at Christmas and that’s fine but when someone drinks too much and becomes intoxicated, it becomes a problem for them, the police and the hospitals. Rather than officers being taken off the streets in order to look after someone in a hospital waiting room, the recovery centre will now pick that up during one of the busiest months of the year.
“It means that officers can remain on the beat across Southport and Formby where we are most effective at keeping people safe and dealing with the more serious or pressing issues that the public rightly expect to us to.”
Launching at the same time as Southport’s Alcohol Recovery Centre is a Alcohol Recovery Vehicle – a state-of-the-art 65-foot-long vehicle based in Bristol – offering similar facilities and support. The NLTA’s Barcode initiative will be rolling out more centres to other parts of the country over the next 18 months.
Andy Bishop, managing director, NLTA, said: “We are delighted to be involved with this pioneering national scheme that will have a profound effect on the licensed trade and in turn reduce the pressure of anti-social drinking on the emergency services, maintain ongoing health education and fund increased community support. Although we look forward to seeing the success of the project across the UK, our aim is that, through education, there will be no need for such assistance in our society in the future.”
A trial of the scheme, which ran in Bristol from December 2013, was praised for easing the pressure on the emergency services by saving hundreds of hospital hours and helping increase police visibility within the night time economy. This released ambulance crews and police officers to attend other 999 calls.
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