Drunk tanks may have to become the norm in towns and cities to keep “selfish” revellers out of A&E, the head of the NHS in England says.
Simon Stevens said he would be closely monitoring how the mobile units cope on New Year’s Eve before deciding whether they should become a regular feature.
Drunk tanks provide a safe place for those who have over-indulged to be checked over and sleep it off.
They are often used over the festive period to stop people ending up at A&E.
A number of cities have already introduced the units – also known as booze buses – all-year-round, including Newcastle, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol.
And now Mr Stevens said he may start recommending others follow suit, given an estimated 15% of attendances at A&E are due to alcohol consumption.
This rises to about 70% on Friday and Saturday nights.
He said he was thinking about the move after spending time with ambulance crews in London and the West Midlands in recent weeks.
“I’ve seen first-hand how paramedics and A&Es are being called on to deal with drunk and aggressive behaviour.”
And, as the nation prepares to see in the new year, he reminded revellers to be responsible.
“When the health service is pulling out all the stops to care for sick and vulnerable patients who rightly and genuinely need our support, it’s frankly selfish when ambulance paramedics and A&E nurses have to be diverted to looking after revellers who have overindulged.
“NHS doesn’t stand for ‘National Hangover Service’,” he added.