A CHARITY needs £100,000 to maintain a service that has saved the NHS almost £1million by helping vulnerable people on nights out.

The YMCA’s SOS Bus, which featured on Channel 4’s Undercover Boss on Tuesday, has saved health services £900,000 by treating injured drunks in Southend High Street on Friday and Saturday nights.

But the 28-year-old bus, which has 202,000miles on the clock, will be out of service in 18 months and would cost £100,000 to replace.

Syrie Cox, chief executive of the charity, which helps keep vulnerable young people off the streets, said: “The SOS Bus is a good Samaritan service staffed by caring volunteers who are literally saving lives on a weekly basis.

“I have often been reduced to tears by the many cards and testimonies we receive from members of the public who have benefited from the work of the team.

“It frees up the police and ambulance services to respond to emergency situations in our town. “The wider benefits of the SOS Bus are immeasurable.”

A team of 60 volunteers give 11,232 hours to help 1,200 people a year who feel threatened by illness, injury, emotional distress or loneliness in the town centre between 8pm and 4pm.

Volunteers can give first aid and the charity estimates it has prevented almost 5,000 trips to A&E. Based on the estimated costs of ambulance call-outs and A&E visits, the charity has calculated it has saved the NHS £900,000 since it was launched in 2005.

Ms Cox said: “When our existing bus has to be taken off the road, the provision might cease to run in Southend, risking an increase in ambulance call-outs and A&E admissions on Friday and Saturday nights, potentially diverting services away from those requiring emergency attention and putting these services under more strain.”

Bus company Arriva donated the vehicle, but to buy and refurbish a replacement would cost £100,000. Dr Andrea Atherton, Southend’s director of public health, said: “The bus regularly received calls for assistance with clients by the police, venues and the street pastors. “The dedication of the staff who work on the SOS Bus is outstanding and they are always happy to take the time to talk to groups about their work. “They are to be congratulated on the success of this initiative.”