Could Help Zone for Exeter's weekend drinkers make a return?

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The success of a Help Zone pilot project to look after late night revellers in Exeter at weekends has prompted efforts to bring it back on a regular basis.

Using a combination of resources from the ambulance service, St John’s Ambulance volunteers and Exeter City Council, a 15-month pilot was launched in Exeter in 2015.

Using St Mary Arches Church in Mary Arches Street as its base, it helped nearly 240 people and of those, 63 per cent received some form of medical treatment for minor ailments.

Out of the remaining people, 31 per cent received pastoral care, and only six per cent required further hospital treatment.

Had the Help Zone not been available, 136 people would have required an ambulance to be called. The average cost for an ambulance to attend an incident across the South West region is approximately £200. It creases by around £65 when a patient is taken to hospital for further treatment.

Therefore, the pilot saved South Western Ambulance Service alone £260,000.

There was an even split between the number of males and females helped, and age wise the zone was used by people from teenagers to pensioners. However, the vast majority of users was not students but older age groups.

Simon Lane, environmental health and licensing manager at Exeter City Council, said: “It was aimed at people with minor injuries and to prevent A&E admissions. It was extremely successful and it had a knock-on effect of reducing demand on the RD&E and SWASFT.

“We are currently in the process of how that pilot goes forward. It does not necessarily need to be open every weekend as there are huge peaks and troughs in the evening night time economy.

“We are looking at when we need the provision and how we lead that in terms of the medical side of things. We are trying to form a partnership with our medical partners so that we are not wholly reliant on one particular strand.

“We are working very hard to make Exeter a safer and more vibrant economy. It’s a changing time and I think peoples’ needs and wants are completely different to what they were a few years ago. I think Exeter is a pleasurable place to be at night.”

The Help Zone, which operated in total over 55 nights in total during its pilot, was funded by Exeter Community Safety Partnership. The service was aimed at people with minor injuries ranging from a cut foot to sprained ankle, or help people in distress.

It stopped in August which is a quieter nightlife period because of the summer holidays, and has not run again since.

Simon said: “Unfortunately, because of demand on other services and The Royal Clarence fire, we have not got it back up and running. We are hoping to get it resurrected soon, and conversations have begun to move it forward. We are also looking at venues to use as its base because the church is now on the periphery of the night time activity.

“The Home Office has just named Exeter as a local alcohol action area so hopefully we will be working with them to see what sustainable model we can produce going forward.”

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