An army of paramedics and volunteers will descend on Soho tonight for “Mad Friday”, which promises to be one of the booziest nights of the year in the lead up to Christmas, writes Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter.
Among their ranks will be the Soho Angels, a joint initiative between Westminster council and the LGBT Foundation, who team up with St John Ambulance service.
They will be wearing pink high-vis vests, tending to revellers who have had a bit too much to drink, with the aim of avoiding unnecessary 999 calls.
Launched last year, the Angels operate on Friday and Saturday nights from a “night hub” based in Dean Street, in the heart of Soho.
This weekend – as hundreds of offices shut up shop and Londoners pile into bars and pubs – their help will be needed all the more.
The Angels’ hub now includes eight beds, staffed by paramedics and A&E doctors and nurses.
It also gives London Ambulance Service (LAS) crews the option to drop patients at Angels’ hub if they are intoxicated or have minor injuries, and won’t warrant a trip to A&E.
Peter Hollely, who leads the St John Ambulance team’s contribution, said: “By expanding our support to the Soho Angels in the run up to Christmas and by working together with the NHS, we hope to relieve pressure on our stretched emergency services, allowing them to be there for those most critical patients.”
The LAS has also today released figures about the surge of call-outs it experienced on “Mad Friday” in 2018.
Their paramedics were called to a 36 per cent more alcohol-related incidents compared to a normal Friday night.
At peak times this weekend, the LAS could respond to 30 alcohol-related calls an hour – one every two minutes.
And every call-out the LAS attends will cost the service £250.
Chief operating officer at the LAS, Khadir Meer, said: “We have a simple message for Londoners – have a great time, but take care and look out for one another.
“Patients who have collapsed or are unconscious through alcohol get priority-response, but these incidents are almost entirely avoidable. Londoners can help us ensure we can reach the most critically ill patients quickly.”
He appealed to Londoners who will be out partying this weekend: “Make sure you eat a meal before going out, it helps slow the absorption of alcohol.
“Second, consider pacing yourself with a soft drink or water between alcoholic drinks. Finally, plan your journey home or book a minicab to ensure you get home safely.”
Looking back over their first year in action, the Soho Angels say they have helped 1,200 people, of whom 230 were given medical assistance and 80 were classed as “serious incidents”.
The Angels now have more than 60 volunteers with a further 25 being trained, and have also reported more than 40 crimes in their first year.
Councillor Ian Adams, Westminster council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “In just a year, the Soho Angels have become a feature of West End nightlife.
“As well as reducing the number of unnecessary 999 calls, the Soho Angels also work to ensure Westminster’s nightlife remains a safe, inclusive and understanding space for everyone.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.