Fat patients forcing ambulances to go super-size

Ambulances across the UK are being super-sized in a bid to cope with increasingly fat patients.

Data obtained by the BBC shows that every ambulance service in the country is buying specialist equipment, such as heavy-duty wheelchairs, stretchers and lifting cushions, to fit inside standard ambulances.

Some services have purchased specialist ‘bariatric’ ambulances to ferry the largest patients around in, at a cost of £90,000 each.

These specialist ambulances also feature equipment such as double-width stretcher trolleys and inflatable lifting cushions, which cost an additional £7,000 and £2,500 respectively, to help accommodate people who weigh up to 50 stone.

Jo Webber, director of the Ambulance Service Network, told the BBC: ‘The fact is patients are getting larger and larger and ambulances need to be able to respond immediately to what could be life-threatening situations.

‘Every service is having to invest money in this. It shows that some of the lifestyle changes we are seeing have a range of costs. It is not just about treating them, but the infrastructure costs as well.’

So far, the West Midlands, Yorkshire, the north-west and Wales already have pools of bariatric ambulances, while three have been purchased for use in London.

According to latest figures from the NHS, in 2008, a quarter of UK adults were considered obese.


Original article published in Metro: 3/02/2011