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Norwich’s SOS Bus will be replaced by St John Ambulance unit

The facility, which has been a staple of Norwich’s clubland area for more than two decades, had been facing an uncertain future as local NHS chiefs considered terminating its funding at the end of its current contract in March. 

Norwich Evening News: The service has been a staple of Norwich's clubland for yearsThe service has been a staple of Norwich’s clubland for years (Image: Newsquest)

Commissioners from Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Service (ICS) received more than 500 responses during a public survey that was used to help inform the future of the SOS Bus.

And now, the ICS has announced plans to replace the service with a like-for-like St John Ambulance (SJA) unit.

“We are grateful to Voluntary Norfolk for providing the SOS bus service in Norwich for a number of years and wish to thank them for the ongoing support given to local people, service users and the local community,” an ICS spokesman said.

Norwich Evening News: The service will be replaced by St John Ambulance from April 2024The service will be replaced by St John Ambulance from April 2024 (Image: Newsquest)

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“NHS Norfolk and Waveney has agreed to award grant funding to St John Ambulance to deliver a like-for-like late-night ‘safe space’ service to support the night-time economy in the Prince of Wales Road area of Norwich.”

The “enhanced service” will start in April 2024 and offer a dedicated mental health first aider, a triage area and, in emergency situations, the SJA will be able to ‘blue light’ patients to hospital.

It is hoped such a facility will ease pressure on ambulances.

“This is brilliant news,” said Colin Lang, who founded the SOS Bus in April 2001 following the deaths of Nick Green, 16, and James Toms, 21, in the River Wensum. 

Norwich Evening News: Colin Lang founded the service in April 2001Colin Lang founded the service in April 2001 (Image: Newsquest)

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“Obviously, I want to say thank you to Voluntary Norfolk for running this integral service for so long.

“But I’m pleased such a worldwide renowned organisation has been chosen to take over.

“St John has been involved with the service from day one and I hope the ICS will provide enough funding to ensure the service is run as it should be.”

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