Lockdown lessons could reduce alcohol-related ambulance callouts

A new study has found that drinking in pubs and clubs was gradually replaced by at-home drinking during the 2020 lockdown, quickly leading to similar levels of ambulance callouts for alcohol-related incidents.

Photo of various alcoholic drinks

This could be an opportunity for the introduction of new measures to avoid pressure on ambulance services as commercial premises reopen, according to the paper which was published in "Drug and Alcohol Review" in December 2021.

"Lockdown and licensed premises: COVID-19 lessons for alcohol policy" was led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald from the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, with quantitative analyses carried out by Professor Jim Lewsey and Francesco Manca from Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment.

Professor Fitzgerald said:

"During the pandemic, both in the UK and abroad, licensed premises – including bars, restaurants and nightclubs – faced significant restrictions, including closures and curfews, which helped to reduce spread of the virus. However, we know that these restrictions also led to many people drinking more alcohol at home.

Our findings suggest that policymakers here in Scotland, but also around the UK and abroad, need to consider how to build upon the lessons learned during the pandemic. As the night-time economy recovers, how can we avoid a return to pre-pandemic levels of alcohol-related callouts arising from the night-time economy, but also reduce callouts and harm from home drinking?"

The research team looked at interviews with licensing stakeholders to understand how COVID-19 has affected licensing and alcohol-related harms. They also researched the experiences of paramedics, as well as conducting descriptive and time series analyses of alcohol-related ambulance callouts in Scotland, before and during the first lockdown in 2020.

Read the full paper

First published: 1 May 2018

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