Norwich SOS Bus celebrates funding boost from NHS Norfolk

The life-saving services of Norwich's SOS bus will continue for another year after the project secured �78,000 of vital funding from the NHS.

From their regular base on Prince of Wales Road, the bus and its accompanying medical unit provide a safe haven for vulnerable people every Friday and Saturday night between 9pm and 3am.

Although relying heavily on volunteers, public donations and corporate sponsorship, the valuable late-night lifeline could not operate without the core grants which help employ specialist staff.

So the team was thrilled when NHS Norfolk confirmed its funding for the scheme for 2012/13 – the fifth consecutive year it has supported the project.

Sarah Mintey, principal of the Open Youth Trust which operates and manages the bus, said: 'We are delighted and relieved to know that the SOS service is secure for another financial year.

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'The bottom line is that each year we have to employ a part-time project administrator, and the money itself pays for a nurse practitioner to be on shift every Friday and Saturday night. It pays for a security guard to man the service.

'It is all about getting folk home safe and sound, and the service is there for everyone. Over a quarter of clients coming onto the bus are receiving treatment that has nothing to do with alcohol.

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'This year alone the bus has been instrumental in saving the lives of four individuals. One of those had not touched a drop of alcohol, but fell down the stairwell at a club.'

Earlier this month, prime minister David Cameron hailed the project as an 'innovative' solution in helping to ease the strain on already-stretched accident and emergency departments.

Since November 2008, more than 1,500 people have used Norwich's SOS Bus, with ages ranging from 13 to 87. Although it dealt with many alcohol-related issues, the service also helped people who were unwell, injured, unable to get home, in fear of violence – or simply needing someone to talk to.

The trust is keen to attract more volunteers, particularly people who hold a public service vehicle (PSV) licence, and will arrange relevant training for specific roles.

nAnyone interested in volunteering should contact Jenny Smith 01603 763111.

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