Alcohol Intoxication Management Services in the night-time economy are highly acceptable to their users but may not reduce demand on emergency services as expected: A mixed methods study

First published: 13 March 2019 | Last updated: 28 March 2019


Mr Andy Irving

Researcher, EDARA Project Manager

Andy Irving is a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield, Centre for Urgent and Emergency Care Research (CURE). His work background is in drug and alcohol treatment services and he continues his research interests in this field as academic lead for the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Panel (ShARRP) Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) group and founding member of the Sheffield Addiction Recovery Research Group (SARRG). His recent research projects include the management of the EDARA project, which is evaluating the impact of Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (AIMS) and an Alcohol Research UK funded exploration of the drivers, processes, and perceived outcomes of alcohol service commissioning.

Twitter: @irvingad82 and @ShARRPresearch

Acute alcohol intoxication (AAI) in city centres in both the UK and overseas is strongly associated with disorderly behaviour, violence, and sexual assault and attracts significant healthcare resources. This has led to calls for Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (AIMS) in an effort to reduce the burden on emergency services. AIMS aka safe havens, drunk tanks, provide basic care for intoxication and have been implemented in some UK towns and cities despite little evidence of their acceptability to their users.

Aims: As part of a comprehensive evaluation of AIMS, this study aimed to describe experiences of attending AIMS and examine the acceptability to their users.

Methods: A sequential mixed methods study was undertaken involving semi-structured interviews (n=19) and a survey of people (n=208) from six AIMS in the UK.

Results: The majority of survey respondents (67%) rated their overall experience of AIMS as 10/10.  Just under a third (31.3%) said they would have been unsafe if the AIMs had not been there.  Although interviewees raised concern about their personal safety; being intoxicated, lost, alone and at risk of assault, over a quarter (26.4%) said they would have tried to look after themselves. Very few (14.9%) said they would have contacted emergency services

Conclusions: AIMS appear to offer a place of safety which is highly acceptable to their users who otherwise generally would not have used emergency services. Policy and decision-makers considering implementing AIMS should note that AIMS may be addressing unmet social demand rather than reducing ED demand as expected.



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Mr Andy Irving