UK & World News

  • 22 December 2013, 10:50

Volunteers Keep Revellers Safe Over Christmas

A front-line team of volunteers has been confronted with the aftermath of assaults, drug abuse and too much to drink as the Christmas festivities for some got out of hand in Norwich.

Sky News spent the night following staff on board the city's SOS bus and medical unit as they coped with one of the busiest party nights of the year.

It was not until after 1am that the trouble really started.

The police called the bus to say a woman was intoxicated nearby. It emerged she had not only drunk too much but had also taken drugs.

She was taken in a minibus back to the main bus to be checked over.

Shift leader Holly Brown said: "People can go unconscious, choking on their own vomit, they can be incontinent.

"We need to judge what has happened. We need to make sure they are OK as we want them to get home safely."

Next it was a trip to a report of an assault on a young woman inside a club. She had cuts on her face and was ushered onto the minibus.

Some people will still end up in hospital, but by responding to reports of injury and sickness the pressure is taken off other services such as Accident and Emergency and ambulance crews.

Leigh Baggaley, 25, works for St John's Ambulance Service and first started helping on the bus five years ago.

"It's an eye-opener. If we weren't here there would be lots more A&E admissions.

"We don't tell people what to do but we try to educate people on how they should drink."

The volunteers even keep every type of phone charger so that drinkers can get back in touch with lost friends. And they offer flip-flops in return for a small donation for those finding their high heels a challenge.

The SOS bus was the first of its kind to be set up in the country back in 2001 and operates every Friday and Saturday night.

Action was taken after two teenagers were found dead in the river following a night out in Norwich. A short time later, the body of a 21-year-old was discovered in the toilets of a nightclub in the city after drinking too much.

As well as the setting up of the bus, a radio system was installed linking the SOS team with the police, pubs and nightclubs.

Toby Middleton is operations manager of four clubs in the city including Roccos and Mercy.

He said: "Having the facility of having the bus and the people who are prepared to do it free of charge and help us with our duty of care ... is a great asset."

In the past five years alone the SOS bus and medical unit have looked after more than 3000 people.

It has proved such a success that towns and cities are following Norwich's lead.

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