‘Booze Bus’ will continue patching up Sunderland drinkers after funding secured

Colin Fozzard, street pastor, Inspector Mick Hall from Sunderland City Centre Community, Joe Hope, assistant operations manager which the North east Ambulance Service, Stewart Keenan, unit leader with St John Ambulance and Julie Belton, street pastor
Colin Fozzard, street pastor, Inspector Mick Hall from Sunderland City Centre Community, Joe Hope, assistant operations manager which the North east Ambulance Service, Stewart Keenan, unit leader with St John Ambulance and Julie Belton, street pastor
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FUNDING has been secured for a medical service dubbed the “Booze Bus” to continue into next year.

Sunderland’s Mobile Treatment Unit has helped hundreds of city centre drinkers while easing pressure on Sunderland’s overstretched A&E department.

But fears had been growing that funding for the service, due to end this month, would not be renewed.

Now, the Echo has been told that money has been found to extend the service until March 2014 after its successful pilot period.

Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council and chairman of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, said: “The mobile treatment unit is one of a number across the country, and has been in the city centre on a pilot basis since June 2012.

“Since its introduction the unit has successfully relieved pressure at Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Accident and Emergency unit and on the North East Ambulance Service.

“Police officers and Street Pastors have also been freed to patrol and be visible rather than having to wait with people until an ambulance arrives or until the person is well enough to make their own way home.”

The unit, which tours the city on weekend nights, is manned by paramedics and members of St John Ambulance who provide on-the-spot treatment.

Results of an independent evaluation of the pilot show that in the first three-and-a-half months, the bus saved about 66 ambulance call-outs and 44 A&E attendances on Friday and Saturday nights.

The decision will come as a welcome relief to overstretched A&E staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The department has seen a rise in admissions of between seven and eight per cent.

Union chiefs told the Echo Wearside was heading towards “the bad old days” with patients queueing out of the door unless something was done.

There is also a shortage of A&E doctors in the city.