York "drunk tank" plan moves forward

Paramedics and hospital staff say they have to spend too much time dealing with drunks

Paramedics and hospital staff say they have to spend too much time dealing with drunks

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MOVES to set up a "drunk tank" in the middle of York cleared a major hurdle tonight despite renewed criticism of the idea.

Councillors voted yes to the scheme which will now go forward as a possible solution to tackling binge drinking problems in the city.

The idea, revealed by The Press on Monday, is based on a similar project in Cardiff.

There was little debate tonight by the councillors, who said they had already had a very full discussion of the idea, which was only a recommendation.

There was still no indication where the centre would be based, who would run it, who would staff it or how it would be funded, they underlined, but David Smith, Director of Development at The Retreat in York, made a last ditch plea for the idea to be scrapped.

He said: "I think this is the wrong solution. You are dealing with the symptoms rather than the problem itself.

"I find it very disappointing that there was nothing in the report about why people are drinking to excess.

"We are looking at how to put a sticking plaster over people going to A&E rather than dealing with the underlying cause."

Tina Funnell, chairing the meeting, told health scrutiny committee members that the level of heavy drinking now going on was a "disgrace".

She said "the rug had been pulled from under public health initiatives" to tackle the problem, with proposals such as a minimum pricing for alcohol so far coming to nothing.

She said a medical centre where people who were "paralytic" could "sleep it off" would be "another block on the road to A&E" and would help prevent drunk people tying up hospital beds and ambulances.

The City of York Council report calls for a medical centre for drunk people to be set up at weekends to ease pressure on paramedics and hospitals. It would provide a safe place for people who have drunk too much.

In March, councillors will look at a range of issues connected to the night time economy including excessive drinking, and a report will then be presented to the cabinet on the best way forward.

Coun Funnell said after the meeting: "We are at a very early stage and whatever happens is a long way off."

  • York's Street Angels have asked The Press to clarify that it will not directly be involved in running the centre, if it is created. The council report had suggested it could be staffed by police, paramedics, emergency care practitioners and Street Angels, the church-led volunteers who help drunk and vulnerable people in the city-centre. Dick Simms, of Street Angels, said they welcomed the plans but did not plan to be involved in running the centre.

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