The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has challenged the findings of an Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) report on ‘Alcohol's Impact on Emergency Services’, saying that the impact of 24 hour drinking is a myth.
The report, which surveyed nearly 5,000 police officers, ambulance staff, NHS medics and firefighters, found that the majority of emergency personnel suffer alcohol-fuelled abuse. According to the IAS, 76% of police, and 50% of ambulance staff having been injured on the job as a result of drunken violence, and alcohol takes up as much as half of emergency service time. Over 90% of police and ambulance staff report they have performed the role of another blue light service in dealing with alcohol-related incidents, it found.
The IAS is calling on the Government to introduce policies such as minimum pricing, and for local authorities to exercise their licensing powers more proactively, including bringing closing hours forward, to tackle the issue.
IAS director Katherine Brown said: 'Our report shows how alcohol takes up a disproportionate share of emergency service time, costing taxpayers billions of pounds each year. Many of these incidents are preventable, and alcohol therefore creates unnecessary problems for front line staff, increasing their workload and preventing them from dealing with other important issues. Police officers we spoke to would far rather be dealing with burglaries than Friday night drunks.'
The report was yesterday presented to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, as part of an inquiry into the ‘Impact of Alcohol on the Emergency Services'.
However, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds, challenged the report, saying said that alcohol consumption has in fact fallen by 18% since 2004. 'Twenty four-hour drinking is very much a myth, as on average, pubs close less than half an hour later than they did under the previous Licensing Act,' she said. 'Local authorities have plenty of powers to restrict licensing hours and close down premises that do not behave responsibly. However, pubs provide a vital community function and we want to encourage drinking in a responsible environment like the pub.
'We need to encourage partnerships at a local level, from Pubwatch to Business Improvement Districts or Best Bar None, so that local communities, police, local authorities and the industry can work together to find the best solutions. It is hugely important for the success of our high streets that there is a vibrant day and evening economy - and there is plenty of evidence that many towns and cities are achieving the right balance.'