May 22, 2017
English ambulance trusts have spent thousands of pounds upgrading their fleets to ensure they can cope with the increasing number of obese patients. Specially designed ambulances and equipment have been introduced across nine trusts in response to a massive increase in cases linked to obesity.
The number of hospital admissions due to health problems caused by weight has increased from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016 – that’s a massive 900%.
“For years the government has not taken enough interest in what’s happening with the population’s weight and they haven’t prepared for it. You can’t expect a very overweight person, who is very poor even, to pay for that kind of service.”
In a freedom of information request, the ambulance trusts disclosed how much has been invested in the upgrades and which bariatric vehicles they have introduced to their fleets.
North West Ambulance Service has eight bariatric ambulances which have been used 40,000 times in four years. They’ve also invested £184,000 on specialist equipment since 2015. South East Coast Ambulance has spent £562,000 on three ambulances reinforced to take heavy loads since 2010.
West Midlands has a full fleet of bariatric emergency ambulances for use in A&E, as well as eight specialist vehicles and another seven on order. South West Ambulance Service has a full fleet of ambulances with bariatric capability, including one ‘Megasus trolley’ for patients weighing up to 60 stone.
Richard Webber, from the College of Paramedics, said investment was crucial across the country for both patients and staff.
He said: “The retirement age is now 67 for paramedics and ambulance service staff. That’s pretty hard, to be working carrying patients up and down stairs at that age and patients are getting heavier.”
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, commented: “For years the government has not taken enough interest in what’s happening with the population’s weight and they haven’t prepared for it. You can’t expect a very overweight person, who is very poor even, to pay for that kind of service. That’s the sort of service the NHS was set up to cope with.”
NHS obesity statistics show that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight. A third of children are also considered obese which has forced the government to develop an action plan.