A QUESTION mark is hanging over the future of a service dubbed the “Booze Bus” which provides medical care for drinkers who get injured.
Sunderland’s Mobile Treatment Unit has helped hundreds of Friday and Saturday night visitors to pubs and clubs while easing pressure on the city’s overstretched A&E department.
The scheme has been operating in the city since June 2012, with the pilot extended from until the end of last month.
Drinkers who find themselves injured or too worse for wear to get home are supported and treated at the unit by trained medics.
Now, partners in the programme say they are assessing its success to determine whether or not funding can be found to continue with the project.
According to the Safer Sunderland Partnership who took the lead on the scheme, the bus has successfully relieved pressure at Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Accident and Emergency unit – and on the North East Ambulance Service.
They also claimed police officers and street pastors had been freed up to patrol rather than being tied down helping injured drinkers.
The scheme had been financed until the end of March this year.
Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “We are currently finalising our assessment of the progress of the pilot during 2013/14 to determine whether future funding might be made available to continue it in the future.”
Results of an independent evaluation of the pilot show that in its first three-and-a-half months, the bus saved about 66 ambulance call-outs and 44 A&E attendances on Friday and Saturday nights.
Medics at the city’s A&E department will be hoping the project is renewed to help ease pressure on its overstretched services. The department has seen a rise in admissions of between seven and eight per cent.
The medical unit is run in partnership with Northumbria Police, St John Ambulance and the North East Ambulance Service.