Christmas “Safe zone” buses to run over Christmas

Festive revellers on Edinburgh's  High Street. Picture: TSPL
Festive revellers on Edinburgh's High Street. Picture: TSPL
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TWO special “safe zone” buses are to take to the streets of Edinburgh and Dundee in the run up to Christmas to act as a place of refuge for people at risk and to provide emergency first aid for city centre revellers, it was announced today.

The deployment of the single decker buses, staffed by Ambulance and Police personnel and volunteers from a range of charities, is being backed by £120,000 in funding support from the Scottish Government.

Scotland’s first “safe zone” bus began operating in Glasgow in December 2011.

The new service in Edinburgh and Dundee was launched in the city of discovery by Michael Matheson, the Scottish Minister for Public Health.

A spokesman for the Tayside Division of Police Scotland said: “The bus service with a difference is taking to the roads of the two cities with the aim of helping vulnerable members of the public. The Safe Zone buses provide modern and comprehensive first aid and medical facilities and safe havens created to meet the needs of people who are out in city centres.

“The new buses in Edinburgh and Dundee will become operational from tomorrow night - traditionally one of the busiest nights of the year for police and ambulance personnel due to the numbers of people in towns and cities celebrating the festive season – but will operate all year round at weekends.

“Ambulance and Police personnel will work with volunteers from a range of charity groups on the single-decker coaches to keep people safe when they become vulnerable for a variety of reasons - through substance abuse or consumption, injury, domestic abuse or other kinds of emotional distress.”

He continued: “The buses will operate between 10pm and 4am – traditionally the peak demand period for police and paramedics – and will provide an initial place of support to those who might otherwise end up in police custody or accident and emergency.”

The charities involved in the project include the British Red Cross, Working on Wheels, Crew 2000, and local alcohol councils.

Mr Matheson said: “This weekend will be exceptionally busy for our hard working emergency services and we need to work together to keep people safe. That’s why the Scottish Government is investing £120,000 to support the setup of Safe Zone Buses in Dundee and Edinburgh.

“As well as a first aid facility, the bus will support individuals and help them cut down on their drinking. Safety zones will help treat incidents and provide assistance to anyone who needs it. A service like this is only possible through the collaboration of multiple agencies and the contribution of the voluntary sector.”

He added: “Too many people in Scotland die because of the long term effects of alcohol. We must take every opportunity to reduce the damage caused by Scotland’s unhealthy attitude to alcohol.”

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson, who has helped co-ordinate the project, said: “This service provides people who are often at their most vulnerable, for a variety of reasons, with direct and immediate support when it is needed.

“The buses and the personnel working on them will act as a first point of contact and will be able to provide a range of support – from initial first aid to referrals to agencies which can help further if required. “Traditionally the last Friday before Christmas is a hectic night for a range of agencies, not least the emergency services. There are many reasons why members of the public may become vulnerable and require the immediate support of someone who can assist. That’s what the presence of these buses and the crews on them are there to provide – direct and immediate help to keep people safe.”

He stressed: “They are not just places for people to go to sober up. People may find themselves in the bus through vulnerability and in need of being looked after in the short term and given support for the longer term.”

Pauline Howie, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “Our key priority is to keep people safe and ensure that those who need medical care receive the most appropriate treatment. Ambulance staff will assess and treat those vulnerable patients, arranging transfer to hospital for appropriate cases and reducing attendance at A&E departments for those that can be treated at the bus because they have a minor injury or have simply over indulged.”