DRUNKEN Wearsiders will get help from a mobile treatment bus when it hits the city centre streets this weekend.
The unit, manned by paramedics and street pastors, will be on hand to assist those who have had one too many and ended up injured or unable to get home.
It is hoped the converted ambulance will help ease pressure on Sunderland Royal Hospital’s A&E department.
The treatment bus, the first of its kind in the city, is being launched by NHS South of Tyne and Wear with the Safer Sunderland Partnership and will carry out its first rounds on Friday night.
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland, said: “Whilst the majority of visitors come to the city centre and enjoy a safe evening, there are a small number of people who consume large quantities of alcohol.
“This leads to them becoming intoxicated to the extent that they require health or police interventions.
“This puts a significant strain upon the emergency services including the police, ambulance service and A&E department particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.”
The bus, provided by St John Ambulance, will be staffed by a paramedic, fully qualified and experienced St John Ambulance first aiders and trained volunteers from Sunderland Street Pastors who will all be supervised by Northumbria Police.
The bus will be parked by busy bars and clubs in the city centre and will be on hand to treat those with minor injuries.
Dr Ian Pattison, chair of NHS Sunderland clinical commissioning group, said: “A large proportion of police and NHS resources are devoted to people who have consumed too much alcohol. The bus will ensure that these individuals receive the care and support they need without the need for hospital admission.”
The unit will be based in the city centre from 10pm to 3am on Friday and Saturday nights from this weekend. It will also be available for use at events such as the International Airshow, football fixtures and bank holidays.
Colin Fozzard is one of the street pastors that will make up the team on the medical mobile service.
The 50-year-old from Fulwell said his role will be offering pastoral support as well as first aid if needed.
“Those we come across who have had too much to drink normally are glad to be helped,” said Colin. “In the treatment centre we’ll be giving pastoral care, a shoulder to cry on, somebody to listen to and we can contact family members if people need help getting home.”
Councillor Celia Gofton, portfolio holder for responsive services and customer care at Sunderland City Council, added: ”This pilot scheme will add to our successful services which exist to ensure visitors to the city centre enjoy a safe and enjoyable night out.”
The bus will operate for three months with a view to extend its use if it proves to be a success.