Blood & tears

When fes­tive fun turns sour: a night with the medics in the Peter­bor­ough Care Tent

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page -

THE blood­gates opened at about 1.45am on Satur­day.

An at­trac­tive wo­man in her 30s had been “bot­tled” in a night­club, an al­leged as­sault which saw her stag­ger into the tent in a dazed state.

Med­i­cal staff sprang into ac­tion, tend­ing to the wound on her scalp and as­sess­ing her state. Was she in shock? How much did she have to drink? Did she have any ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions?

The back­ground to the fra­cas, and what led to some­one al­legedly strik­ing her, re­mained vague. A po­lice of­fi­cer stood nearby lis­ten­ing to her ac­count of a night turned sour.

The next one in was Hans, an East­ern Euro­pean, who seemed more pre­oc­cu­pied with his mo­bile phone than the gash across his eye­lid.

Min­utes later, a shirt­less lad en­tered with blood pour­ing from an­other fa­cial wound, his friend’s T-shirt splat­tered with it.

It had be­gun, and, for the next 75 min­utes, staff in the Peter­bor­ough Care Tent – re­turn­ing to Lax­ton Square for the sec­ond year – would not stop for a sec­ond.

For three hours they had watched a mul­ti­tude of rev­ellers who were free of work and in high spir­its cross be­tween the city’s pubs and night­clubs, with­out need­ing to in­ter­vene.

Staff from the Safer­peter­bor­ough part­ner­ship and St John Am­bu­lance (SJA) sat read­ing and chat­ting, sur­rounded by about £40,000 of med­i­cal equip­ment, in­clud­ing rows of beds, ice packs, blan­kets, and first-aid kits in­clud­ing de­fib­ri­la­tors and oxy­gen re­sponse bags.

A doc­tor, para­medic, nurse and five first-aiders were on standby ready to deal with po­ten­tial in­tox­i­cated party-go­ers and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. These would ei­ther walk in, be picked up by po­lice, or di­rected to the fa­cil­ity by pub and club work­ers via a Citylink ra­dio chan­nel.

Nearby was an emer­gency am­bu­lance and a rapid re­sponse med­i­cal car.

Emer­gency depart­ment charge nurse for Peter­bor­ough and Stam­ford Hos­pi­tals NHS Foun­da­tion Trust Andy Howes went through pro­ce­dures with less ex­pe­ri­enced SJA mem­bers, while hot drinks and slices of pizza were con­sumed.

The blue­print for the scheme was set out in Cam­bridge, where it has now been run­ning suc­cess­fully for five years.

It aims to cut down the pres­sure on hos­pi­tals on one of the busiest pe­ri­ods of the year.

An­thony Kitch­ener, who has been with the St John Am­bu­lance for 14 years, said: “We hope peo­ple don’t have to use us, but if they do, we want it to be suc­cess­ful.

“If some­one is un­con­scious through al­co­hol, nor­mally an am­bu­lance would be called, but here we can turn it around a lot quicker.

“Most peo­ple who are drunk are friendly, but if they aren’t, we have a po­lice pres­ence.”

The East­ern Euro­pean lad came in at 1.50am. His eye was al­most com­pletely closed, a bub­ble of flesh be­tween an­gry red welts.

The de­ci­sion was made to send him to hos­pi­tal in a tem­po­rary ban­dage, for pos­si­ble plas­tic surgery. He would be the only one that night who would not go straight home af­ter treat­ment.

Else­where, the shirt­less lad was chatty and quite bub­bly, de­spite his pain. He said he had been as­saulted twice, by two dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

The al­co­hol pro­vided a crude painkiller be­fore a real anaes­thetic was ap­plied – a nee­dle plunged di­rectly into his face – prior to stitches.

Last year a lo­cal busi­ness­man com­plained about the tent, say­ing that it had driven him out of busi­ness. But a quick straw poll of passers-by sug­gested they were in favour and our lad, now sewn up, told staff with a smile through puffed up lips that he greatly ap­pre­ci­ated their care. He left for the ke­bab house.

An­other lad tot­tered in with fa­cial in­juries re­sem­bling those of a van­quished boxer, along­side a girl­friend dressed as an an­gel, wings clipped for the night.

He was an­other al­leged as­sault vic­tim, and a few eye­brows were raised when he pro­claimed he had been beaten by a bouncer.

His part­ner’s eyes were stream­ing eye shadow and she wailed that her shoul­der was hurt­ing, and that it was her birth­day.

They left af­ter 45 min­utes of treat­ment, head­ing for their beds – he said he had work the next morn­ing.

By now, the tent was swollen – like many of the vic­tims – and staff al­ter­nated be­tween clean­ing, ad­vis­ing, sewing and calm­ing.

An older man’s eye wound was treated qui­etly and a boy­ish

drinker was treated for a black eye, when a hor­i­zon­tal streak of yel­low sud­denly ap­peared at the en­trance, hoisted by two friends or fam­ily mem­bers.

The thor­oughly ine­bri­ated young man oc­ca­sion­ally rolled side­ways from his bed and vom­ited with a roar into a bucket. If any­one summed up the need for city cen­tre treat­ment, it was him.

As it is, his dad swiftly ar­rived to take him home, and said he had seen it be­fore.

The last ar­rival of the night was per­haps the sad­dest of all, two pretty girls in a state of con­fu­sion af­ter one had al­legedly been at­tacked – a spi­der’s web of blood streak­ing down her face from her scalp.

The wound was mended with sur­gi­cal glue. The duo ap­peared be­wil­dered by their night which had ended in trauma.

These eight peo­ple, sev­eral of whom had no idea why they were al­legedly at­tacked and with no de­scrip­tion of the al­leged at­tacker, were the ex­cep­tions on the night.

Thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets with no prob­lems at all, and no wounds or re­grets. Over­all, Peter­bor­ough drinkers were re­spon­si­ble.

That was shown by a drop in numbers com­pared to last year, when 64 peo­ple were treated across four nights, an av­er­age of 16 per night.

In ad­di­tion to the eight on Fri­day night, an­other three men were seen on Satur­day with wounds in­clud­ing fa­cial lac­er­a­tions and hand in­juries.

Of the 11, only one went to the city hos­pi­tal. With­out the tent, if each one was seen for an av­er­age of 30 min­utes, it would work out as five and a half hours of treat­ment that would have fallen on hos­pi­tal staff.

The tent will be up again to­mor­row night, for new year rev­ellers, and, yet again, med­i­cal staff – some of whom are vol­un­teers – will be putting their new year cel­e­bra­tions aside to deal with any may­hem.

Speak­ing af­ter­wards, Andy said: “The city it­self was quite quiet, which we were sur­prised about, but work­ing in­side the tent is such a dy­namic sit­u­a­tion which can change at the drop of a hat.

“There were quite a lot of as­saults to deal with, which is wor­ry­ing, but not many peo­ple came to us with prob­lems di­rectly re­lated to al­co­hol.

“To­mor­row night will be the big­gest night of the pe­riod.

“We would tell peo­ple to en­joy them­selves but stay safe – have fun, but be re­spon­si­ble.”

OF­FER­ING THE SER­VICE: The care fa­cil­ity team was made up of staff from the East of Eng­land Am­bu­lance Ser­vice NHS Trust, Peter­bor­ough & Stam­ford Hos­pi­tals NHS Foun­da­tion Trust, St John Am­bu­lance, Cam­bridgeshire Con­stab­u­lary and Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil.

AC­TION STA­TION: Po­lice of­fi­cers out­side the tem­po­rary care tent.

Pic­tures: BEN DAVIS

PATCH­ING UP: For one rev­eller it’s a ban­dage over a wounded eye, and for an­other a nee­dle ad­min­is­ter­ing anaes­thetic, caus­ing him to wince.

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