Medics rights to refuse drunks treatment

AMBULANCE crews have reserved the right to refuse treatment after police were advised to call paramedics instead of automatically arresting unconscious drunks.

By Tracey Sparling

AMBULANCE crews have reserved the right to refuse treatment after police were advised to call paramedics instead of automatically arresting unconscious drunks.

As the Evening Star reported last week, a police circular was sent out across Suffolk, reminding officers that what looks like drunkenness, could in fact hide a range of serious illnesses and telling them not to automatically arrest somebody but call for an ambulance instead.

The advice came a year after David Button died in custody at Stowmarket from liver failure after officers assumed he was simply drunk.

It said: "Officers are reminded that when they attend incidents where a person is unconscious or semi-conscious apparently through the consumption of alcohol they should not automatically arrest but call an ambulance and require that the person be treated at a hospital.

"If there is a refusal by the ambulance service to treat the individual as

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in need of medical care there must not be an immediate presumption that custody is the only alternative, but strong representation made to

appropriate ambulance service managers."

An East Anglian Ambulance Trust spokesman said today: "We would support the view that an ambulance is required if someone is unconscious or semi-conscious.

"The only time we would refuse treatment is if the person was violent or aggressive, in which case it is a job for the police."

A report to be discussed by the Custody Visitors' Committee of Suffolk

Police Authority on Friday said Mr Button was suffering from a severe medical condition, and the outcome would not have been altered by immediate medical attention.

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