Drunken revellers will get emergency medical treatment in a Birmingham office complex over the festive party season in a pioneering scheme.
A building at the heart of Birmingham's entertainment district will serve as a temporary medical centre over the Christmas and New Year period.
West Midlands Ambulance Service's plans for the 'drunk tank' were announced yesterday as leading doctors claimed the Government and hospitality industry had failed to tackle binge-drinking effectively.
Ambulance trust bosses admitted "the vast majority" of 999 calls received on the weekends before Christmas Day and New Year's Day were alcohol-related.
But they were not publicising where the festive clinic will be, amid fears they may be inundated with drunk revellers and time-wasters who need nothing more than a taxi home - despite having police officers on the door for security.
Dave Ashford, the trust's regional head of community response, said: "We are not giving out the exact location as we don't really want people to just wander in off the streets. Ambulance crews will be responsible for deciding which patients are appropriate to attend the clinic and will bring them in to us.
"Obviously if people do turn up at the door and need our help, we will look after them but we are urging anyone requiring urgent medical attention to dial 999 as normal and we will make the judgment as to the most appropriate place for them to be treated."
It is the first time ambulance service bosses have included a temporary base as part of their seasonal contingency plans - and if successful it could become a regular feature.
A team of six doctors and nurses from the Central Accident Resuscitation team, a voluntary group with expertise in managing patients in "a pre-hospital environment", will treat patients between 8pm and 4am on the Friday, Saturday and Monday before Christmas Day and New Year's Day. They will be assisted by a paramedic and volunteers from the St John Ambulance.
The aim is to take the pressure off Birmingham's busy A&E units.
WMAS operators took 1,152 emergency calls in 24 hours from December 31, 2005 to January 1, 2006. While that figure fell to 1,022 during the same period in 2006-07 - with 527 calls taken between midnight and 4am - ambulance bosses are expecting a "significant increase" in 999 calls this year.
Mr Ashford added: "This will free up our crews who can convey appropriate patients to the clinic, as they will be available to respond to further patients much quicker. We are expecting to see between 30-50 people through the doors of the clinic each night."
Details of the scheme came as a report in the British Medical Journal today claims attempts to change Britain's binge-drinking culture have failed.
Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, and Dr Nick Sheron, a liver specialist at Southampton University Hospital, argued in favour of using proven methods to tackle drink problems such as lowering maximum blood alcohol levels.
Between 1991 and 2005, the number of deaths directly caused by alcohol almost doubled, according to their report.
Prof Gilmore and Dr Sheron argue that the turning point in the debate about smoking was over the dangers of passive smoking, and yet the damage to third parties from exposure to alcohol misuse is far greater.
They added that the World Health Organisation had found that increasing the price of alcohol was the most effective and cost-effective measure.
"Increasing prices has the biggest effect on the heaviest consumers and on young people, who spend a relatively high proportion of their income on alcohol.
"Between 1980 and 2003 the price of alcohol increased 24 per cent more than prices generally, but disposable income increased by 91 per cent, making alcohol 54 per cent more affordable in 2003 than in 1980.