Third of A&E attendances on Saturday nights are alcohol related

New research shows substantial burden of alcohol on hospitals and emergency services

Nearly a third of all attendances at Irish hospital emergency departments on Saturday nights are alcohol-related, according to new research.

During the remainder of the week, alcohol was a factor in 5.9 per cent of attendances.

In the first study of its kind, which included all 29 emergency departments in Ireland, staff examined the notes of every person coming into hospital to identify "alcohol-related presentations".

The busiest time is Saturday night and Sunday morning when 29 per cent of cases are alcohol related.


Those arriving with alcohol-related presentations were most likely to be male, to arrive by ambulance and to leave against medical advice without being seen by a doctor, researchers at Galway University Hospital Emergency Department, the HSE Public Health Department in Galway and NUI Galway found.

Dr Brian McNicholl, who is one of the report’s authors, said while it is known alcohol is a problem in emergency departments at certain times, more detail was needed to work out what needs to be done. “We don’t have a nationally agreed way to collect this information so we developed a method with the help of colleagues all over the country,” said Dr McNicholl, a consultant in emergency medicine at Galway University Hospital.

‘Better services’

Co-author Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, HSE West director of public health, said the burden of alcohol on hospitals and on emergency services is substantial and expensive.

“We need to do more to prevent alcohol-related harm, and to have better services for people who have alcohol problems so that people don’t end up in EDs and ambulances. In our study the alcohol-related people were four times more likely to come by ambulance.”

He said that while the overall 5.9 per cent figure might seem low, it was high based on international comparisons.

The research would provide evidence to help improve ways of collecting information on alcohol use and better ways to provide hospital and other services for people with alcohol problems, Dr O’Donovan said.

The study, published in BMJ Open, was conducted with the help of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times