Just weeks after the walk-in centre was saved, ANOTHER of our city's crucial health services is under threat due to NHS funding cuts.

Health bosses are considering scrapping the SOS Bus - which has been a vital night-time service in the city’s clubland area for more than two decades - when its current deal runs out next March.

They argue that a new wellness hub that opened at Castle Quarter earlier this year could expand its services and are looking into whether the bus is now surplus to requirement.

But supporters of the volunteer-led emergency service argue that it helps reduce the pressure on A&E visits by providing a “first point of contact” for support and first aid for revellers on Friday and Saturday nights.

Norwich Evening News: The SOS bus. Picture: Denise Bradley

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It is also estimated to save the ambulance service around £270,000 each year.

Lucy de Las Casas, director of development at Voluntary Norfolk, said that the SOS Bus “has proved vital in supporting those who need help the most”.

She said: "Last year, it helped almost 2,500 people and prevented more than 200 A&E visits or ambulance callouts at a time when emergency services are already stretched."

Bosses at NHS Norfolk and Waveney are asking the public to have their say on the service ahead of making a decision about its future.

Ms de Las Casas added: "Voluntary Norfolk knows how important the SOS Bus remains and would therefore encourage readers to take part in the consultation, especially those who have benefited from the service.

"The more people who respond to the consultation the better, as it will help the ICB get a deeper understanding about the important role the SOS Bus plays in helping people and reducing pressures on the emergency services."

An NHS Norfolk and Waveney spokesman said: "NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) has begun a period of engaging and listening to the views of local people around the SOS Bus and the Wellness Hub at Castle Quarter.

“This is an engagement piece of work to gather views and feedback. 

READ MORE: Political opponents welcome decision not to close walk-in centre

Norwich Evening News: SOS Bus on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich on a Saturday night.

"We are committed to ensuring that our patients and local people are involved in all aspects of the way we develop services and our decision-making processes. 

“The SOS Bus service was established in April 2001 to provide a ‘first point of contact’, support and first aid to people who are in Norwich city centre on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Earlier this year, NHS Norfolk and Waveney opened a wellness hub at Castle Quarter where we have been offering Covid-19 vaccinations and more recently, NHS health checks. 

“We are inviting people to share their feedback and experiences to ensure that the SOS Bus meets the needs of those who have used it.

"The wellness hub is keen to develop the services it currently offers.

“To take part in the survey please visit smartsurvey.co.uk/s/SOS_CQ.

The survey, which was opened this week, is set to close on Sunday, June 11.

Norwich Evening News: The Evening News will be supporting efforts to save the SOS BusThe Evening News will be supporting efforts to save the SOS Bus (Image: Newsquest)

What is the SOS Bus?

The big, yellow SOS Bus first became a feature on Prince of Wales Road in April 2001.

It was launched following the tragic deaths of Nick Green, 16, and James Toms, 21, in the river.

Since then, the distinctive bus has helped thousands of people enjoying the city’s clubland – but along the way has picked up a reputation as the go-to for those who are drunk, or under the influence of drugs.

But it has also been used by people just wanting a safe place to wait for a taxi, charge up their phones or simply talk about their mental health.

This is not the first time its future has been under threat, but campaigners are hoping it will remain.


In light of the consultation being launched, your Evening News will be throwing its weight behind efforts to save the SOS Bus.

The much-valued service has been under threat before and has proved its life-saving worth many times over, thanks to the kind spirit of its volunteers. 

With our NHS services already stretched to breaking point and unacceptably long queues a common sight at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, it's a service which should be protected.

Many will argue that it's a sad reflection of our society that such a service is required and that may well be a valid point, but we all make mistakes, particularly when we're young.

We encourage all of our readers to make their thoughts known in the consultation.