A&E departments bracing themselves as pubs prepare to open on 'Super Saturday'
1 July 2020, 14:22 | Updated: 1 July 2020, 17:20
Doctors, nurses and paramedics are “bracing” themselves for packed A&E departments this weekend, medical leaders have warned.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (Rcem) warned the NHS may be unable to cope if hospitals are flooded with scores of drunk revellers as lockdown is eased further.
Dubbed “Super Saturday”, pubs, bars and restaurants are reopening on 4 July for the first time since March.
But Dr Katherine Henderson, Rcem president, told Radio 4: “We’re bracing ourselves, I think would be a fair way to say it.
“It actually is quite serious, we have emergency departments having to work in a very different way than they did before because we have to keep vulnerable patients safe so we can’t have crowded emergency departments.
“What we can’t do is have a department that gets overwhelmed by people who are injured because they have got themselves into a fight, they have fallen off something, they have drunk so much that they actually need the health service’s help.”
Dr Ian Higginson, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, added: "I would urge the public to think about hospitals and think about emergency departments in that way and to continue to look after the NHS and their staff and to be considerate in the way they behave to try and not end up in our departments."
A&Es, largely free of drunken admissions in recent months, have been redesigned during the pandemic to segregate arrivals and deal with less patients.
In a letter reportedly sent to hospital trusts' chief operating officers, an NHS England regional director warned to expect A&Es to be “similar to that of New Year’s Eve”, when drunken partygoers hoard the vast majority of resources.
Police chiefs have criticised ministers for creating a “countdown to carnival” with the 4 July reopening date, however pubs and restaurants are required to cap numbers and keep to table service to ensure social distancing is observed.
Strict hygiene measures including protective equipment for staff and contactless payments will also be in place.
John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has urged drinkers to be “responsible, sensible, and mindful of the restrictions that are still in place”.
Martin Hewitt, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, recognised that “people have had frustrations” and that officers will be on alert as they enjoy their “new freedom”.
But following a fortnight of clashes between police and partygoers at illegal raves and block parties, Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police chief commissioner, warned people they “should expect to face the consequences” if they are violent.
"Some people might say we have been heavy handed and some not firm enough, but I utterly reject that we have gone soft. We are definitely not soft,” she said.
She added: "You will see a lot of police officers out and about next weekend, but there will be many more you will not see, and they will be ready should there be violence or disorder.”