It’s a weekend evening in Leeds city centre and the streets are busy with drinkers and clubbers.
So are the emergency services – but thanks to a specialist unit, the A&E departments in the city aren’t as busy as they once were.
Parked at the bottom of Briggate, in the epicentre of the nightlife scene, is a unit which has made a major impact on the pressure on hospitals.
It’s a static ambulance which can treat minor injuries, without the need for revellers to go to hospital.
Previously they might’ve headed to A&E or been taken there in an ambulance, then faced potentially a lentghy wait for treatment – while staff also deal with much more seriously ill patients.
Now, those suffering from generally drink-related injuries can be seen, treated and then go home without having to go to hospital unless it is medically necessary.
In the 12 months up until the end of March, 765 patients were seen at the Community Medical Unit in Leeds, saving an estimated 351 ambulances from being called out.
“I’m delighted with its progress and everyone who has supported it,” said Damien Maloy, the Emergency Care Practitioner who was instrumental in bringing the static ambulance to Yorkshire.
“The idea is to stop people going to A&E unless necessary and reduce the number of ambulances going to the centre so they are available for others in more need.”
He’d seen one belonging to another ambulance trust and thought it would work well in the region, so he put together a paper for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) board to explain why it was needed.
The static ambulance in Leeds is one of two now run by YAS, with the units funded by the charity Barca-Leeds and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Charitable Fund.
“It’s an alternative to going to A&E,” said Damien.
“We can treat minor injuries and send people on their way.”
Inside, the unit is equipped to the same level as a normal ambulance, with an assessment and treatment area and a waiting area for patients.
It is staffed by an Emergency Care Practitioner and Emergency Care Assistant and can treat a range of minor injuries and illnesses, with common treatments including suturing or gluing wounds.
“We also offer advice to homeless people in and around the area,” Damien added.
Patients come to the unit because they can see it, or know it’s there, but the staff also work in partnership with other workers and volunteers around at night in the city, such as door staff and Street Angeels. They will refer anyone in need of medical help for minor injuries to the unit.
Damien said: “It’s gone from strength-to-strength – but we can’t work in isolation.
“Any reduction in the number of people going to A&E is a good thing.”
On average, the unit sees around nine people each shift – though on the last New Year’s Eve they saw almost 30.
And unsurpisingly, though they focus on treating injuries, many of these are drink-related.
“People just need to be aware of their limits,” Damien added.
Now YAS has two of the units, the other is stationed in York at weekends, with plans for them also to be used to provide support during big events like next weekend’s Tour de France.
Erfana Mahmood, a non executive director at YAS and chair of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Charitable Fund Committee, said: “A member of our Emergency Care Practitioner team has worked extremely hard to get this initiative off the ground and put forward a detailed proposal to obtain the funding required for the vehicle. It is very rewarding to see the idea become a reality thanks to the valuable contributions and fundraising efforts of many people who have come into contact with the ambulance service in some way and wanted to support the work it does.”
Mark Law, chief executive at Barca, added: “Barca-Leeds are delighted to support Yorkshire Ambulance Service by donating a vehicle to be used as a Community Medical Unit and it’s great that two units are now on the road thanks to the further support of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service Charitable Fund.”