News from Tony Arbour: London’s drunks costing ambulances and A&Es £60m a year

24 June 2014

Double drunk fines to £180 and hit those who repeatedly abuse NHS

Binge drinkers are costing emergency response services over £60m every year.

New FOI figures reveal London’s Ambulance Service is spending £16m a year on responding to and treating drunks.

In addition, the Capital is spending at least £45m on binge drinkers needing emergency hospital admissions².

Admissions relating to alcohol in London’s hospitals have tripled in the last decade – from 56k in 2002 to 156k in 2011³ – burdening the Capital’s doctors and nurses.

A new report, On The Wagon is calling for Parliament to double drunk fines to £180 and target those who repeatedly abuse our public services.

GLA Conservative London Assembly Member, and author of the report, Tony Arbour said:

Many people like a tipple but our public services should not be catering for bingers who can’t handle their drink. Our ambulances, prison cells and A&Es are designed for medical emergencies or dangerous criminals, yet we are seeing London’s drunks hogging these services, costing the Capital millions of pounds. We need to deter this behaviour by doubling fines for drunkenness to £180 and hitting those who repeatedly abuse our health services, many of whom are currently getting off scot-free. The cash raised could fund targeted support and guidance for repeat offenders. The Mayor of London needs to lobby Parliament to make this happen and I’ll be urging him to do so.

The report also calls for Sobering Centres* and Booze Buses**, manned by nurses, to operate on troubled high streets, across London, all year round.

Tony Arbour said:

As well as deterring this behaviour, we need to deal with drunks in a more appropriate way. Purpose-built Sobering Centres and Booze Buses, manned by nurses, can provide low level treatment such as blood pressure and blood sugar checks as well as a bed for the night. This will deliver significant savings by freeing up prison cells and emergency rooms for London’s real problems.

Currently, London has recently closed its only sobering centre (which was located in Westminster) and has just one remaining Booze Bus – operating on a seasonal basis.

This report recommends targeting the Capital’s trouble high streets with a total of three Sobering Centres and 10 Booze Buses – operating all year round across London.

The full report ‘On The Wagon: Reducing the cost of binge drinking by expanding sobering services’ can be accessed at

Notes to editors

Chris Hewett

Senior press officer

E: [email protected]

T: 020 7983 4960                                                     


Gordon Cameron

Press officer

E: [email protected]

T: 020 7983 4961


Chris Taylor

Press officer

E: [email protected]

T: 020 7983 4949

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