Ambulance call outs to north-east underage drinkers ‘deeply concerning’
by Kaitlin Easton
March 9, 2020
Ambulance crews have been called out on nearly 300 occasions to incidents involving youngsters drinking underage since 2017.
The youngest patients whose aid they came to were aged under five.
New figures obtained by the P&J have shown that the North division, which covers the Highlands, Grampian, the Western and Northern Isles, responded to 285 calls.
The data is based on cases where the crew had noted that alcohol was a factor in the incident and the recorded patient age was under 18.
There were also seven noted instances of figures not being fully published because the patients were too young.
Calls have now been made for the Scottish Government to better educate children on the dangers of alcohol.
Chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Alison Douglas, has condemned the figures as “deeply concerning”.
But while figures were still high, the North division in fact had the lowest number of cases in Scotland.
Ms Douglas said: “While the North of Scotland has a lower number of ambulance callouts for under 18s than the rest of Scotland, the fact that hundreds of children require urgent medical attention due to alcohol consumption is deeply concerning.
“As well the short-term risk of alcohol poisoning, suicide, accidents and injuries, children and young people may be at risk of longer-term physical and mental problems as a result of drinking alcohol.”
North-east MSP Tom Mason noted that alcohol was a “heavy burden” on the NHS, costing “around £3.5 billion every year” and called for the government to do more to warn children of the dangers.
He said: “The effects of underage drinking continue to put intolerable pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service across the north-east.
“The education of children about the consequences of underage drinking needs to begin before they are old enough to try and buy alcohol for themselves.”
Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn believes having the lowest figures in Scotland illustrate there is successful partnership working going on across the region but acknowledges that “clearly more can be done”.
He said the SNP Scottish Government had taken “bold measures” in introducing minimal alcohol pricing.
“We have seen a fall in alcohol related deaths as a result,” he said.
“But it is a pity that Ambulance crews are still having to respond to such calls when their time could likely be spent better elsewhere.”
The South West division had 405 incidents, South East had 562, East Central dealt with 508 and West Central was the highest in Scotland at 975.