Attempts to stop A&E departments being used like a “national hangover service” could lead to drunk tanks in towns across the country.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has suggested rolling out the temporary holding centres to provide a safe place for those who have over-indulged to be checked over and sleep it off and ease pressure on other services.

Braintree central ward councillor Andrew Hensman said: “Police cells locally have shut down meaning prisoners or those arrested have to be transported further, tying up resources for longer.

“If the NHS is really looking locally then where would it be? Their own resources are also overstretched.

“I do think it’s a good idea to prevent A&E being misused; those there genuinely are made more uncomfortable by others the worse for wear.

“Perhaps a facility, together with users named and shamed, would make them think twice about being associated with it.”

The facilities, also known as booze buses have been deployed in some larger cities but may be considered closer to home.

The suggestion came after the ambulance service urged members of the public to use 999 and A&E departments wisely after its busiest ever Christmas.

An estimated 12 to 15 per cent of attendances at emergency departments in the UK are due to acute alcohol intoxication and this peaks on Friday and Saturday evenings when as many as 70 per cent of attendances can be alcohol-related.

Mr Stevens said: “When the health service is pulling out all the stops to care for sick and vulnerable patients who rightly and genuinely need our support, it’s frankly selfish when ambulance paramedics and A&E nurses have to be diverted to looking after revellers who have overindulged.

”A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service welcomed the discussion and pointed to the work being done with SOS Bus schemes and charities."