Future of ‘Safe Space’ for city drinkers secured

Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth

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A LATE-NIGHT clinic to treat drunk and vulnerable people in Portsmouth’s city centre is secure for a year.

The pilot of Safe Space, near Portsmouth’s Guildhall Walk, proved so successful that it will stay open until at least March 2012.

The clinic soared past its target to treat 150 people since opening last August, treating 293 revellers by the end of February – easing pressure on the Queen Alexandra Hospital’s Emergency Department and saving taxpayers thousands.

Paramedics helped support 435 people in total in the period with injuries ranging from a patient with a slashed throat to head injuries, panic attacks, and people who were drunk.

Portsmouth Street Pastors supported 142 people, from those who are homeless to drunk revellers and people who needed help to get home.

At an average cost of £83 per person helped, the figure falls well below the average costs of £200-£300 of transferring a patient to hospital or up to £800 for a hospital admission.

Door supervisors who man Safe Space during its 10pm to 3am opening hours on Friday and Saturday nights vet everyone before they are allowed in to help prevent trouble.

Now city councillor Eleanor Scott, who is in charge of environment and community safety, has given approval for the NHS Portsmouth-funded project, at the Lower Mountbatten Gallery near Guildhall Square, to continue. Councillor Scott backed a plan for the Safe Space contract to go out to tender from June.

Alan Knobel, alcohol lead for the Safer Portsmouth Partnership, made up of agencies including the council, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and police, said: ‘We’re pleased we are able to continue the project with the funding available from NHS Portsmouth and the support from Portsmouth City Council.

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of public health and wellbeing for Portsmouth, said: ‘Patients can be assessed and treated quickly, without adding to the pressure on the ambulance service and the Emergency Department during a peak demand period.

‘This makes the NHS more effective, and saves money, as higher cost health care services are not being used by patients with minor injuries and instead can be directed to those in most need.’