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Alcohol-related emergency calls soar in Camden

PUBLISHED: 10:14 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons STARTLING figures revealed this week have shown that Camden has the second highest rate of alcohol-related 999 calls in London. The London Ambulance Service (LAS) statistics show that since 24-hour licensing was introduced for pubs and restaur

Tan Parsons

STARTLING figures revealed this week have shown that Camden has the second highest rate of alcohol-related 999 calls in London.

The London Ambulance Service (LAS) statistics show that since 24-hour licensing was introduced for pubs and restaurants in 2005 the rate of emergencies in Camden has risen by almost 15 per cent and now accounts for a tenth of all ambulance call outs.

There were 3,244 alcohol-related calls in the borough during the financial year 2008/09 - a figure topped only by Westminster, where 5,489 calls were made over the same period.

LAS operations manager Natasha Wills said: "Providing a fast, effective and first-class response to patients in Camden is our top priority, so dealing with this many alcohol-related calls is a real concern.

"We are having to treat more patients who are simply drunk, which limits our ability to reach people who really need our help.

"We're asking people to be sensible when they're out drinking in Camden and to use their ambulance service wisely.

"This will help us to ensure that ambulances are available for people with life-threatening emergencies."

Neighbouring boroughs have also recorded rises in the amount of alcohol-related emergencies since 2005, but overall they pale in comparison to Camden and Westminster.

Haringey recorded 1,819 such calls in 2008/09 and Barnet recorded 1,535.

Silla Carron, who is a community leader on the Clarence Way Estate in Camden Town, said the new licensing laws have had a huge effect on her neighbourhood - effectively making it an open house policy on drinking.

Supermarkets were also to blame, she said, for selling alcoholic drinks around the clock.

She said: "I'm an ex drinker so I'm speaking from experience and I can tell you it's been a bad move.

"There are a lot more youngsters drinking than ever before. You've still got people using stairwells to p*** and vomit wherever they feel like it."

In 2005 the Heath and Hampstead Society spoke out against the prospect of 24-hour licensing. Chairman Tony Hillier now says that while Hampstead does not have a problem with alcohol abuse, he still thinks it was wrong to open up the possibility of all night drinking.

"By and large in Hampstead we don't have alcohol abuse leading to injuries," he said.

"This may sound arrogant but I think the 2003 Licensing Act, if properly used by local residents, can lead to the very beneficial effect of allowing much better control of late night drinking than the previous system.

"There were five or six bars and restaurants that constituted the late night drinking trade in Hampstead but thanks to the efforts of residents they closed down.

"Now we have a reasonable compromise between residents and restaurants.

"I feel very sorry for other parts of the borough such as Kentish Town and Camden Town that have these problems - it's terrible. I feel that opening up the 24-hour licensing was a mistake. It was a terrible idea."

He says the only positive to arise from the new laws is the use of evidence-based panel hearings which give local residents an opportunity to be heard, and the decision to differentiate between the licensing of premises as opposed to individuals.

According to the LAS, ambulances are most in demand between midnight and 2am on Saturdays when more than one in six of all calls are directly alcohol-related.


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