London Drunks Get Ride on 'Booze Bus'

To combat binge drinking, city employs ambulance capable of treating five.

ByABC News
February 26, 2009, 3:29 PM

Jan. 23, 2008 -- Aboard the Booze Bus, the dark side of London's merry partygoers becomes all too apparent.

Call them the binge drinkers.

ABC News went aboard the Booze Bus, a larger-than-average ambulance that picks up drunk people in central London and can handle as many as five patients at a time. The bus, officially called the Alternative Response Vehicle aka the Vomit Comet, is operated by the British National Health Service and treats only the inebriated.

According to the NHS, every day paramedics answer 125 emergency calls related to alcohol. Each year, 3,000 Britons die of liver cirrhosis.

"We got nothing against people going out, having a few beers, getting merry, getting tipsy," paramedic Brian Hayes told ABC News. "It's when it goes over that limit, from being a social fun thing to a burden on themselves and on society."

"It seems to be a culture in this country that it's fashionable to get drunk. [But] it's a time bomb that is waiting to explode."

That night, paramedics Hayes and Phil Guthrie were called for an emergency in Soho Square in central London.

"We are going to a young male who is lying on the pavement," said Hayes. "The only thing we know is that he is conscious and breathing."

The driver turned on the siren and dashed off through the rainy streets of London, crowded with merry partygoers lining up and lighting up in front of nightclubs and pubs.

When the paramedics reached Soho Square, police officers were already attending the pale, 30-something patient lying on the pavement, wrapped in a plastic emergency blanket.

"Hello mate, you are all right?" asked Hayes.

"Yes, I am fine, can I go home now?" answered the patient.