The North East Alcohol Office has joined organisations across the UK backing a Private Members Bill calling for more protection for emergency workers from assaults that are often fuelled by alcohol.
It is set to be introduced by Chris Bryant MP in Parliament tomorrow and if it is approved, assaults on emergency workers would become an aggravated offence.
According to recent surveys, half of paramedics in the North East have been physically assaulted at some point while on duty and only 14 per cent of police officers in the region said that they have never been assaulted in the line of duty.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Emergency workers are there to protect us, but are regularly subjected to horrific violence and sexual assaults.
“Cheap alcohol is making this situation much worse.
“We are all paying the price of cheap alcohol – whether through disorder in town centres or drunken patients taking up the time of nurses and doctors in A&E, which impacts on other patients in need.
“The time must come when we say enough is enough and give frontline staff the protection they need.”
Balance has also released figures for the region from a study on its behalf about the cost of alcohol misuse.
It says there is a cost of £209 million in NHS resources and healthcare for services such as hospital admissions, A&E attendances, ambulance call-outs and treatment for alcohol dependency.
In addition, there is an estimated £353 million lost to North East businesses and employers through absenteeism, lost productivity and alcohol-related deaths, including 548,400 days off.