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Motorists should not be allowed to drink ANY alcohol before they drive, say nurses

Nurses want a zero alcohol limit for drivers: It would mean that one glass of wine would be out of the question

Drivers should not be allowed to drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel, nurses said yesterday.

They called for drinking even a single unit before driving to be made illegal.

Rod Thomson, vice chairman of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Ideally it should be illegal to drink half a pint of beer.

‘People find messages confusing – they think one glass of wine is a unit and that it is OK to drive after two or three.

‘Telling people that they could not drink at all before getting behind the wheel would make the message much clearer.’

Some countries already have absolute zero limits, including Estonia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary.

But critics said the suggestion – raised at the Royal College of Nursing conference in Gateshead – was unworkable and unfair.

If the law were changed, a woman who had consumed three large glasses of wine in an evening could be stopped for drink-driving on her way to work the next day.

The average man’s liver takes about an hour to remove one unit of alcohol from the bloodstream – although it usually takes longer for women.

This means that if a woman were to consume six units in an evening – two or three large glasses of wine – she could still have alcohol in her bloodstream by the time she woke up in the morning.

Nurses, however, said drivers can turn their cars into ‘potential killing machines’ by consuming only one or two drinks with lunch or over the evening.

They said even one unit of alcohol can greatly impair a motorist’s reaction times and concentration.

Andrew Frazer, an emergency care nurse from East London, told the conference: ‘You would not drink two pints of beer before going to work so why would you do it before getting behind three-quarters of a tonne of steel capable of going 100 miles per hour?’

The Department for Transport is considering reducing the current legal limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

It means a man can drink up to two pints of beer or three small glasses of wine and still drive – although experts warn size and metabolism can greatly affect how worse for wear an individual feels.

Ministers could reduce the limit to 50mg, as is the case in much of Europe. This means one pint could put a man over the limit.

They believe this could prevent up to 65 deaths and 230 serious injuries on the road every year.

But Neil Williams, from the British Beer and Pub Association, called instead for better enforcement of the existing limit.

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Nurses blame Holby City for unrealistic expectations

Television hospital dramas like Holby City are leading patients’ families to expect medical “miracles” with injury lawyers exploiting their unrealistic hopes, a nursing conference has heard.

Medical dramas fuelling a culture of litigiousness at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual conference in Bournemouth.

Nurses also warned that a fear of being sued could lead staff to leave the profession and make it more difficult to recruit trainee nurses in the future.

The NHS spent £807 million settling claims in 2008/09, up from £661 million in the previous year, figures from the National Health Service Litigation Authority show.

John Hill, a nurse from Scunthorpe, told RCN’s annual conference in Bournemouth: “In A&E it is sometimes a fact that sadly we cannot get people through the trauma they have received.

“Unfortunately, unlike in Holby City, I am a mere mortal and cannot perform miracles.

“But many relatives believe because of that, you can.

“And the injury lawyers assure them that if you don’t they will get recompense for it.”

There were 8,885 clinical and non-clinical claims made in 2008/09, although less than one in 20 of these go to court.

The Litigation Authority has previously warned that fees from no win, no fee cases are affecting NHS patient care.

RCN delegates also claimed that fears over becoming embroiled in litigation claims could drive nurses from the profession.

Jane Bovey, a nurse from Wiltshire, told the conference: “I’m concerned that nurses will be afraid to continue in this profession.

“I’m also afraid that we will fail to recruit future nurses as the fear of litigation will be so that they will question their decision.”

Marcia Turnham, a nurse from Cambridgeshire, warned that patient care was being compromised because nurses were spending so much time documenting their actions, to protect themselves in the case of future litigation.

She said: “One of the main concerns is that there’s too much documentation associated with the care we have to give.

“A big part of that is those documents associated with indemnity insurance for the trust.

“Every time a patient is admitted it can take a nurse 40 minutes to fill in the paperwork.

“That’s time that a nurse could be spending with the patient.”

Howard Catton, head of policy with the RCN, agreed that there was a problem and said that the fear of litigation could lead nurses to become “defensive”.

He said: “People talk about being risk averse in their practice to the point of becoming defensive.

“There is a consequence that through becoming defensive you don’t move forward and you don’t improve.”

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