'Pace yourself': New Year's revellers urged not to 'get drunk for the sake of it' amid NHS pressures

New Year's revellers are being urged not to "get drunk for the sake of it" tonight as pressures on A&E departments continue to grow.

Mike Gibbons, commissioner of operations for St John Ambulance, told Sky News his organisation would be supporting the NHS across the country as Britons head to parties after two years of New Year's Eve celebrations hit by COVID restrictions.

However, he asked people going out to "pace yourself" due to the pressure on the health service, adding: "Enjoy the evening. But just be a bit sensible... and don't go too far with the alcohol."

The appeal comes after a warning from health leaders that waiting times at A&Es are likely to be the worst on record this winter as hospitals struggle to cope with demand due to flu, COVID and Strep A.

A number of NHS Trusts - including South Western Ambulance Service and East of England Ambulance - have declared "critical incidents" in recent days.

And figures from NHS England show that last month, around 37,837 patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E for a decision to be admitted to a hospital department - up by almost 355% compared to the previous year.

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Adrian Boyle, said: "In November, we recorded the highest ever hospital occupancy at 94.4%. I would be amazed if that has gone down over December. It almost certainly would have gone up.

"Over 90% of clinical leads last week reported that they had people waiting in their emergency department for more than 24 hours. The gallows joke about this is now that 24 hours in A&E is not a documentary, it's a way of life.

"These long delays are harmful for people - they are sick and need hospital but are waiting in the corridor of an emergency department. It's undignified and it's dangerous."

The former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, Dr Nick Scriven, also said the NHS urgent care system is "pressurised like never before", and made an appeal to the public to help.

"I would ask people to consider carefully if their problem requires emergency care and if they do present to hospital, to realise that people will be seen in order of clinical priority," he said.

Dr Scriven also asked people with cold symptoms that could be flu or COVID to "be cognisant of the possible risks and to consider forgoing social gatherings to minimise the spread of viruses".