The health service has earmarked £300,000 to fund so-called “drunk tanks” in a bid to ease the pressure on hospitals and emergency services over the festive period.
The supervised areas are to give revellers who have had a few too many a safe space where they can be checked over and sleep off the booze instead of clogging up A&E departments.
Figures show 12% to 15% of all attendances to emergency departments are alcohol related, but this can spike to up to 70% on Friday and Saturday evenings.
This Friday, the last before Christmas, is dubbed “Mad Friday” as workers across the country celebrate the start of the Christmas break, often with heavy drinking.
NHS England will use the money to fund dozens of the services across the country including one in London’s Soho.
The Soho Angels scheme is a partnership between Westminster City Council and the LGBT Foundation, and will be one of the first to benefit from NHS money.
The drunk tanks, officially called Alcohol Intoxication Management Services (Aims), are already used in some areas year-round including Exeter, Hereford, Norwich and Blackpool.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens repeated his message that NHS “does not stand for National Hangover Service”.
“I have seen first-hand while out with ambulance crews in the run-up to last Christmas the problems that drunk and often aggressive people cause paramedics and A&E staff who just want to help those who need it most,” he said.
“We want to help other organisations take care of those who just need somewhere safe to get checked over and perhaps sleep it off.”
He said he wanted to see councils make wider use of the “late night levy” they can impose on bars and clubs to set aside safe spaces for revellers.
The funding announcement comes as the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) prepare to publish their findings into Aims – NHS England will then decide whether these services are supported throughout the year.