Volunteers abused trying to help drunk revellers on city streets

The News spent time with the police and volunteers as they helped people with minor injuries, freeing up A&E for more serious cases. Picture: Wullie Marr
The News spent time with the police and volunteers as they helped people with minor injuries, freeing up A&E for more serious cases. Picture: Wullie Marr
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NIGHT-TIME first aiders endured one of their busiest shifts of the year as Christmas party season hit the Capital.

The Evening News was given exclusive access as the Street Assist charity treated more than double their usual number of patients on Friday.

Drunken revellers and assault victims were among those helped by volunteers – who have been targeted by yobs in the past.

“Unfortunately some people think it is acceptable to abuse our volunteers and in two instances volunteers have been spat on,” said Street Assist founder Neil Logan. “Like other public-facing services, our volunteers have the right to work in safety and we are confident in doing so because of fantastic support from the police. Street Assist receives a great deal of support from Edinburgh police and they are always there when we need them.”

Of the 27 patients helped during the night the News spent with the team, 23 were treated without being transferred to A&E – saving the NHS thousands of pounds.

Six assault victims were treated for minor injuries including severe swelling, a split eyebrow and lip wounds.

One man suffered a nasty hand injury after punching his victim. Two patients had to be taken to A&E to get wounds stitched.

Thirteen of those helped were “heavily intoxicated” and would have been taken to hospital without the Street Assist team’s intervention.

Police, bouncers and CCTV operators were among those calling volunteers out to patients – freeing up emergency services to deal with more serious cases.

The Tollcross-based charity has 90 volunteers with up to 20 deployed every Friday and Saturday night. They have treated 1,100 people so far this year.

Typical patients include young women found on the streets having been separated from their friends.

“They’re found on their own and had their drinks spiked,” said Logan, 48. “They’re vulnerable.

“In Christmas party season we’re getting people we don’t normally see,” he added.

Volunteers run a safe treatment room at Central Hall, West Tollcross, where patients can recover while friends or family are contacted.

The News also spent time with police on what officers call “Black Friday” as revellers hit the town in huge numbers before Christmas.

One partygoer was found passed out on a freezing Lothian Road pavement in the early hours of the morning.

City centre community officer PC Chris Green tried to wake the man before helping him off his back and onto a bus stop bench.

Street Assist volunteers were called and the man, aged in his 30s, was taken to the recovery room – freeing up police to take more calls.

“It’s invaluable what these guys do,” said PC Green. “It’s all part of a partnership approach.”

Street Assist is now seeking Scottish Government help in saving a mobile triage bus from the liquidators of former charity SafeZone.

It would mean volunteers could expand to two sites at the weekend and provide nightly support for the homeless twice a week.

Street Assist volunteer Emma Gray, 21, said: “I’m applying to join the ambulance service next year and this is good experience – it’s definitely what I want to do in life.”