Pushing, punching, spitting and biting are all behaviours emergency department staff have to deal with when treating drunk patients, a new survey has found - and a startling nine out of every 10 staff have been subjected to the abuse.

Drunk patients have even gone as far as knocking a male doctor unconscious, and verbally threatening a heavily pregnant nurse, the survey found.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine recently carried out Australasia's largest survey of alcohol harm in emergency departments in which more than 2000 ED doctors and nurses from Australia and New Zealand took part.

The survey found 92 per cent of respondents had experienced assaults or physical threats from drunk patients in the last 12 months.


It also found 87 per cent felt unsafe due to the presence of an alcohol-affected patient while working in their ED.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Dr Anthony Cross said the college was calling on governments to take more action to prevent alcohol related harm. "We need a serious commitment to implement the policies we know can make a difference."