AN AMBULANCE is called out every 19 minutes to deal with a drunken patient somewhere in Scotland, according to new figures.
Paramedics were called to more than 27,000 incidents involving alcohol-related illnesses or injuries in each of the past three years, statistics released under freedom of information laws reveal.
That equates to almost 75 calls a day – an average of one every 19 minutes – made to the Scottish Ambulance Service to deal with people under the influence.
Campaigners said the figures show the need to curb excessive drinking and politicians yesterday branded the statistics “depressing”.
Figures last year revealed a soaring toll of assaults on paramedics. Ambulance service sources said the bulk of those attacks were carried out by drunk patients.
The Scottish Ambulance Service said alcohol was a “consistent factor” in attacks on paramedics.
The statistics show that in the last three years paramedics responded to 82,635 patients who were recorded as being under the influence.
Last year 27,120 such incidents were recorded – with the Greater Glasgow area recording the highest number – 6,640.
Ambulance staff last year dealt with 4,159 drunk patients in the Lothian region, 3,897 in Lanarkshire, 2,060 in Grampian and 1,325 in Tayside.
The number of drunk patients has stayed roughly static over the three years covered by the statistics – with 27,934 in 2011, 27,581 in 2012 and 27,120 last year.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of the Alcohol Focus Scotland campaign group, said: “Ambulance crews are spending far too much time dealing with the effects of alcohol and are often on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse from people who are drunk. We need to prevent people drinking to excess in the first place.
“Minimum pricing and further restrictions on the availability of alcohol will mean fewer patients needing treatment.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “This shows just how complex and damaging Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is.
“It’s also depressing for the health professionals, who didn’t come into that line of work to assist those whose problems could be well avoided.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Neil Findlay said: “These numbers are shocking and the SNP need to bring forward a fully rounded plan that contains a number of measures to combat alcohol abuse.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The safety of ambulance staff is paramount. We have an agreed process with the police to manage drunk and incapable people and ensure that they are referred.”