Thames Reach is warning of the dangers of alcohol hand gels which are
being stolen from hospitals and then drunk by homeless people with chronic alcohol
The gels – which are found in hospital wards and used by visitors to
clean their hands – are being taken for their high strength alcohol content
despite being poisonous and extremely dangerous.
The problem seems particularly prevalent among Central and Eastern
European rough sleepers – Thames Reach’s London Reconnection Team which helps
Central and Eastern European rough sleepers in London return home, recorded
over 20 cases last year and has seen seven cases since the start of 2012.
Recent newspaper reports have also linked the death of a Polish homeless
man, who drowned in a canal in Paddington, to the consumption of alcohol hand
gel stolen from a hospital.
The problem was first identified a couple in 2008 when it emerged that
there had been five deaths in London among Central and Eastern European rough
sleepers who were poisoned by drinking these gels.
Tom Vincent, who manages Thames Reach’s outreach services, said:
“These alcohol hand gels are being abused by people who either don’t know or
are too desperate to care about the risks – we need to get the message out that
drinking these products can kill.”
Calls are now being made for hospitals to improve their security
measures and to alert staff to the problem.
Tom Vincent said: “Some hospitals may be aware of the problem but by
no means all. Some will need to improve their security, putting the dispensers
in a safer place and ensuring they are securely locked up, and there is a need
to raise awareness of the issue among hospital staff.”