A "DRUNK TANK" to treat people on nights out is being trialled in York city centre.
A mobile medical unit will be stationed in St Helen's Square on Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm to 3am and throughout the day during the races to treat people who are unwell through drinking or have suffered minor injuries.
It is hoped the City of York Council and Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) scheme will keep people from unnecessarily being taken by ambulance to A&E and ease pressure on paramedics.
The unit will have a treatment room for one person at a time to see emergency care practitioners and a waiting area for up to six patients suffering minor illnesses or injuries.
Meanwhile, the orange Street Angels night bus will be parked next to the unit on Saturday nights where drunk people can sit down until they have recovered. On Fridays North Yorkshire Police’s mobile policing unit will be located in the square.
Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing, cabinet member for homes and safer communities, said: “We want everyone to be able to enjoy the best of York but not at the expense of their health – or others’ enjoyment.
"We’ve followed the example of the community medical unit set up by Yorkshire Ambulance Service in Leeds which helped over 700 people last year – mostly with minor injuries as a result of a fall – and prevented unnecessary visits to hospital. The findings will be tracked and a decision made about future support.”
The medical unit will be in contact with the police and the ambulance service should support be needed, via Nightsafe radios, also held by pub and door staff.
The trial will last for about six months.
Inspector Charlotte Bloxham, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to provide a service to those users of the city centre who might otherwise end up in the Emergency Department.
"Minor injuries or the affects of alcohol misuse often don’t require emergency medical attention. This combined service will help to ensure the safety of these vulnerable people. Police officers and hospital staff will therefore be freed up to more effectively carry out their roles.”
North Yorkshire Police and the council have helped to fund the fitting out of the new Street Angels Night Bus and to kit out the medical unit.
Councillors voted to approve the scheme in February despite renewed criticism of the idea.
At the time, David Smith, Director of Development at The Retreat in York, made a last ditch plea for the idea to be scrapped.
He said: "I think this is the wrong solution. You are dealing with the symptoms rather than the problem itself.
"I find it very disappointing that there was nothing in the report about why people are drinking to excess.
"We are looking at how to put a sticking plaster over people going to A&E rather than dealing with the underlying cause."