Drinkline statistics (1)

At the end of last year Prim and I approached the UK agency who manage Drinkline about their helpline.  Prim had done a secret shopper phone call to them to find out more about their service and this left us curious for more details.  Over the next week of posts I will cover the Drinkline stats that Public Health England (PHE) kindly shared with us via email.  These are a snapshot in time looking at the month of July last year.  We are sharing the detail that was shared with us in it’s original form as the report from SERCO, who manage the phone line for PHE, was very detailed.  Why are we sharing it?  Because it shows that there are many people using this NHS provided phone line and looking for help.  That we are not alone in our issue with alcohol.

Drinkline front page

Drinkline Monthly Demand Breakdown

1,462 calls arrived in hours to Drinkline in July. This is an increase of 188 (15%) when compared with the 1,274 calls that arrived to the service in June. Demand has decreased by 66% this month when compared with July 2013 although arrival patterns have kept a similar shape between April and July 2014 when compared with 2013. Demand has steadily decreased between May and June 2014, a trend which can also be seen when looking at the same months during the previous year.

Daily Breakdown

1,462 calls arrived in hours in July which is an average demand of just over 47 calls per day which is an increase of 4 calls per day when compared to last month, June 2014.

The busiest day in July was Wednesday the 2nd of July with 120 calls arriving to the service on this day. Demand on the 2nd of July equates to just over 8% of all monthly demand to Drinkline.

4 minutes and 31 seconds was the average duration of a call in July. This is a decrease of 14 seconds when compared with June 2014.

Demand By Day Of The Week

Call arrival patterns in July have changed when compared with last month. In June, the majority of calls arrived on a Monday with demand decreasing towards the end of the week. In July however, demand peaked on a Wednesday with 341 calls arriving in hours to the service on this day. Demand then decreased by 3% on Thursday then by a further 7% on Friday.

Demand By Hour

Unlike call arrival patterns by day of the week, hourly arrival patterns have stayed relatively consistent this month when compared with June. The majority of calls received in July were between the hours of 11am and 3pm accounting for 50% of all demand to the service. 21% of demand arrived between the hours of 9am and 11am which is a 1% increase when compared with June. Demand decreased each hour between 3pm and 8pm with 29% of demand for July arriving between these times.

So to summarise:

Drinkline received a total of 1,462 calls for the month of July, which averages out at just over 47 a day but on their busiest day they received 120 calls.  The average call time lasted just under 5 minutes.  Monday used to be the busiest day of the week (which logically makes sense) but it had shifted to Wednesday.  The hours of 11am to 3pm were their busiest time but demand remained for the hours before and after.

Now one could argue that this isn’t very many people when compared to the population of the UK, and PHE told me that “Drinkline is one of the least active of the lines we operate”.  If the service was more widely publicised would it be utilised more?  Yes you can find the number in many places online for example here:

Helpline: 0300 123 1110 (Mon-Fri 9 am – 8 pm, weekends 11 am – 4 pm)

If the phones were manned for longer hours would it be utilised more?  I volunteered for the Samaritans for 5 years and our busiest times were always overnight, and particularly at the week-end.  I appreciate that they are very different phone line support services but I’m just wondering out loud.

As funding for both Public Health and the NHS is squeezed further the likelihood of this services hours being increased are slim, with the very real possibility that they may be rationalised further as is happening to Stop Smoking services already.

What are your thoughts about the data and our musings?

Edited to add: since posting this on FB Laura from Club Soda shared this comment:

“Drinkline is no longer advertised because promotion of it has been cut in the communications budget”

Unbelievable ……. 🙁


5 thoughts on “Drinkline statistics (1)

  1. I think that as a society we are still firmly stuck at the pre-contemplation stage of change in our relationship with alcohol. I found this summary of pre-contemplation on PyschCentral –


    Individuals in the precontemplation stage of change are not even thinking about changing their drinking behavior. They may not see it as a problem, or they think that others who point out the problem are exaggerating.

    There are many reasons to be in precontemplation, and Dr. DiClemente has referred to them as “the Four Rs” —reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization:

    Reluctant precontemplators are those who through lack of knowledge or inertia do not want to consider change. The impact of the problem has not become fully conscious.
    Rebellious precontemplators have a heavy investment in drinking and in making their own decisions. They are resistant to being told what to do.
    Resigned precontemplators have given up hope about the possibility of change and seem overwhelmed by the problem. Many have made many attempts to quit or control their drinking.
    Rationalizing precontemplators have all the answers; they have plenty of reasons why drinking is not a problem, or why drinking is a problem for others but not for them.

    Either alcohol is not a problem for our society; or we have a heavy social and economic investment in it; or the problem is too big to do anything about; or it is only a problem for a minority, who only have themselves to blame.

    So let’s slap an ineffective band-aid on it in the form of a helpline, so we can appear to be doing something about it. But let’s not support that helpline, or do anything with the data it provides about this country, or integrate it into a fully thought out approach to tackling the problem.

    Because there isn’t a problem, after all, is there? Because if there were, we might have to actually DO something about it?

    1. Yep Prim. Elephant and/or ostrich syndrome writ large 🙁 Apart from the canary in the coalmine of all us sober bloggers out here telling the truth 😉

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