Far too often alcohol is at the root of a trip to A&E. Here Navigator Tam Begbie reveals the impact alcohol has on the lives of those he meets at The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh's A&E department. This article first appeared in The Scotsman Newspaper on the 16th of November.
The adverts on TV make alcohol look fun, and for those who can drink in moderation it can be part of a good night out. But in A&E that’s not the side I see.
Alcohol is at the root of probably 75 per cent of the cases I deal with, and where there has been an assault alcohol is almost always involved. Friday and Saturday nights in A&E can be very busy. We see a lot of teenagers and young people who have gone out with their mates and just drunk far too much. Sometimes they’ve also mixed alcohol with narcotics. Too often their big night out turns into a stay in A&E and possibly a court date if arguments have got out of hand.
We also see those suffering from the long-term effects of alcohol abuse. Some will be admitted after being found on the street passed out, some have suffered serious life changing injuries while under the influence and some are in hospital with severe organ damage. Drinking a litre of spirits a day can become routine for them. Often they’re using alcohol as a form of self medication – it numbs the pain of personal traumas. People don’t plan for a future filled with pain, illness and hardship. It’s just how life has turned out for them.
Whatever their situation my job is to help those who often have no one else to turn to. People who desperately want to change but simply don’t know where to begin. Together we figure out the help they need and then Navigator connects them to amazing services like Turning Point Scotland, Alcoholics Anonymous and Change, Grow, Live (CGL). We’re also lucky to be able to work alongside the most amazing medical staff who go over and above every day to help their patients. All of us working together can give people a real fighting chance to recover from alcohol abuse.
Soon the Christmas nights out will start. There will be people who go out drinking to celebrate with friends or colleagues but end up in A&E, possibly with a life altering injury or conviction. Navigators will be in the A&E departments of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Glasgow Royal Infirmary ready to offer our help to those in need. Because a visit to the emergency department is also our chance to make a connection with someone who is struggling with life. At that moment we have a window of opportunity to offer our help, and support that person towards a better future.