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Old 12-10-2011, 05:27 PM   #1
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"Violence, abuse, vomit: a night with the 'booze bus' medics at Christmas"

At nearly 2am last Friday the young woman lying on a bench outside the bar in London's West End is so drunk she has passed out. She is in no state to notice, much less care, that her short skirt has ridden up – and she does not appear to be wearing knickers – or indeed that her Gucci handbag and credit cards are there for the taking.

Not a pretty or dignified sight, but more dangerous and disturbing is that the girl is easy prey for a passing attacker. Paramedic Brian Hayes shakes his head: "Look at the state of her. These young women just don't realise what risks they're taking when they go out and get smashed. They're so vulnerable."

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for the crew of what the medics like to call the London Ambulance Service's "booze bus". Tonight is no exception. The 30-year-old woman helped by Hayes turns out to work for an international bank. He checks her pulse, asks her to open her eyes and tries to get her into the ambulance. But she is unable even to stand
Morgan shows the gap where he lost three teeth after a drunk butted him a few weeks ago. Then the mobile rings again and we are off, lights flashing, sirens blaring; another street, another drunk.

The cost of treating each drunk is estimated at around £220 a time; the total cost to the NHS of treating alcohol-related injury and illness is thought to be about £3bn a year.
In an evening, the booze bus has picked up several young professional women, bankers, businessmen, an ex-marine and a homeless person. A 38-year-old, well-dressed woman with a Cartier watch and Harrods leather coat is ordering the crew to get her a taxi. On a recent shift the bus picked up an off-duty policewoman who had been on an alcohol awareness course. It is, says Morgan, a quiet night.

The occasional drunk will apologise, and thank the crew, but most can barely speak. On the whole they are a lairy bunch and it's a messy, thankless job.

It is the lone women who worry the crew most. "For some reason the guys seem to stick together, but we often find a woman completely out of it and on her own. It's such a risk," says Gissing.

Violence, abuse, vomit: a night with the 'booze bus' medics at Christmas | Society | The Observer
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