BINGE-DRINKERS who get into fights or fall over and hurt themselves will soon have their own street paramedic to tend their injuries.

North-East NHS officials are planning to use Government funds to pay for an ambulance paramedic to be based in Darlington town centre.

The idea is that the paramedic will be on hand to deal with casualties who have either injured themselves or been hurt in scuffles.

Health bosses believe this will take pressure off hardpressed ambulance crews.

Ambulances serving the town traditionally have their busiest times on Friday and Saturday nights, ferrying casualties to hospital accident and emergency departments.

Officials believe that by having a paramedic “in the thick of it” it will also lead to faster treatment for casualties.

The street paramedic idea is one of a number of initiatives planned for the region as part of Government-funded policies designed to reduce the harm caused by alcohol misuse in the region.

If the Darlington town centre street paramedic scheme is a success, it could be rolled out to other hot spots across County Durham.

Since April 1, staff working in the accident and emergency departments at Darlington Memorial Hospital, Bishop Auckland General Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham, in Durham City, have been recording details of alcoholrelated injuries and passing on the anonymised information to local police to identify hot spots where alcohol-fuelled violence is common.

County Durham already runs a “structured intervention”

pilot programme in Easington, which aims to help adults who are in danger of getting into trouble with the courts because of their alcohol consumption.

Arrested individuals who are either at risk of offending or have already started offending are given advice and support as part of day care alcohol treatment.

Now, NHS officials are looking to extend this scheme across County Durham and Darlington, and include under-18s who have committed alcohol-related offences.

There are also plans to extend an existing scheme, which involves GP staff screening registered adults aged 40 to 75 to identify those who are drinking too much, to patients aged from 16 to 39.

Patients are offered advice on reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels.

A spokesman for NHS County Durham and NHS Darlington said significant work had been undertaken in the last year to tackle alcohol-related harm across the area.