Fewer alcohol-related visits to inner Sydney emergency room since ‘lockout laws’ introduced

The emergency room at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital has seen a 10% reduction in the incidence of fractures that are often caused by a punch to the face over the two years since the so-called “lockout laws” were introduced.

Published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), the results indicate alcohol restrictions in inner Sydney have effectively reduced numbers of violent alcohol-related injuries.

The controversial 2014 NSW Liquor Amendment Act aimed to reduce alcohol-related violence by restricting access to alcohol in Sydney’s Kings Cross and the CBD entertainment precinct. The changes involved stopping alcohol service in pubs and clubs by 3am and a 1.30am “lockout” (to stop people entering the venue), as well as restrictions on takeaway sales after 10pm.

It’s actually the closing time of the venue that has the bigger impact (rather than the lockout itself), so early last drinks is a better name than “lockout laws”.

The MJA study looked at the rates of alcohol-related orbital (eye socket) fractures before and after the changes to alcohol access. There were 27 fewer fractures that required surgical management during the period of the laws. That’s an estimated total saving of nearly half a million dollars in hospital, ambulance and other medical costs.

Some orbital fractures can be considered minor injuries. But in 2016, some of the same authors found a 25% reduction in major alcohol-related injuries (such as the so-called “one punch” injuries) in the 12 months after the laws were introduced. Such injuries often result in doctors such as myself having to tell parents their child may have a serious head injury or possibly be brain dead.

This latest research adds to compelling evidence from Australia and internationally that demonstrates restricting access to alcohol by closing drinking venues early reduces serious assaults and injuries.

Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.