A BUS is set to provide Sunderland city centre drinkers with a place to sober up.
In a bid to relieve pressure on over-stretched late-night emergency services, plans are under way to buy and renovate a second-hand bus, offering a refuge to revellers who have had a few too many.
The innovative idea aims to deal with low priority cases, freeing up police, paramedic and medical staff’s time to deal with emergencies.
The bus will be manned by support staff to help party-goers who are ill, upset or in need of help, as well as a paramedic who will be based there to deal with any minor injuries.
The Safer Sunderland Partnership has said plans are in their early stages but it has received a £20,000 cash injection from Northumbria Police Authority to help drive it forward.
Coun Tom Foster, Safer Sunderland Partnership chairman, said: “We welcome these grants which allow us to develop projects within community safety partnership work.
“Part of this work is looking at ways to help those with alcohol and drug-related problems and reduce the strain this puts on emergency services and health professionals as a result of alcohol-related injuries.
“While still in the early stages, one proposal is to provide a place of safety bus mobile unit that could be used as a base in the city centre to help people who are drunk and in need of basic medical interventions.
“It is hoped the unit could provide both medical care and pastoral support for people who are in physical or emotional pain, who are in need of someone to talk to, who may just need directions, advice or help in getting home safely, or who may be vulnerable because they have been a victim of crime.”
The proposal, which would work alongside the street pastor and taxi marshal schemes, has been welcomed.
Kevan Martin, of Sunderland-based North East Alcohol Forum, said: “Anything that reduces hospital admissions has got to be a good thing.
“I also think it will compliment the good work that’s being done already by the street pastors, who do an excellent job.
“I would also like to see more work being done on preventing people from getting in these states in the first place though.”
Colin Fozzard, who heads the Street Pastors, added: “The work of the street pastors has proven to be very successful and the bus would be a great partnership with the street pastors.”
Discussions are also underway with Stagecoach to try and secure a bus.
John Conroy, managing director of Stagecoach North East, said: “As a business we’re always looking for opportunities to support our local community.
“As such, we have had early stage discussions about plans to locate a safety bus in the centre of Sunderland.”
NHS South of Tyne and Wear, working on behalf of Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, is working closely with Safer Sunderland Partnership and other agencies, including police, Pubwatch, St John’s Ambulance and the Salvation Army.