Hundreds of thousands of British pounds spent by the NHS on super-sized ambulances for the obese
05/19/2017 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

Super-sized ambulances are now being used to accommodate the growing number of obese patients in England. From 52,000 obesity-related admissions in 2006, the figures have ballooned to 520,000 admissions in 2016, reported In a report by the, ambulance trusts were said to have spent at least 1.3 million British Pounds on these specially-customized vehicles.

To carry patients weighing between 50 to 70 stone (or 700 to 980 pounds), the vehicles have been reinforced to bear the additional weight. The majority of the ambulances have also been outfitted with hoists and lifts in order for paramedics to move obese patients. For some areas, all of the vehicles have been reinforced. The new ambulances have become absolutely essential for trusts such as the North West Ambulance Service. In 2016, North West England had the largest number of obesity-related admissions at 78,000 cases. For that reason, the North West Ambulance Service has rolled out eight bariatric vehicles that have been used 40,000 times in four years; additionally, the trust has spent 184,000 British Pounds since 2015 to purchase specialized equipment.

Far from being the only one, other trusts have also had to spend hundreds of thousands on ambulances and equipment. Beginning 2010, South East Coast Ambulance (Secamb) has spent 562,000 British Pounds on three ambulances that have been fortified to sustain heavy loads. The ambulances have been used 1,700 times in the span of five years. Moreover, other vehicles have been equipped with large stretchers and lifts at the cost of 36,000 British Pounds.


Over three years, East of England has spent a total of 432,000 British Pounds on eight vehicles with 16 bariatric stretchers. All 420 accident & emergency (A&E) ambulances under West Midlands are bariatric-capable, including eight specialist vehicles. West Midlands is also expecting seven more on the way, to the tune of 114,000 British Pounds. East Midlands, meanwhile, has 225 bariartric-capable vehicles, with six of them having lifts and hoists.

Though the costs may be outrageous, paramedic organizations have stated that the pricey investments were for the patients as well as the safety of workers.

This statement was affirmed by Richard Webber, trustee official for communication at the College of Paramedics, who told that staff and patients required adequate support now, more than ever. “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,” Webber said.

Such was the case for Rob Shaw, a former ambulance technician at Secamb. “When someone is in front of you, taking their last breaths, you've got to do something. There's no time for warm up exercises, you're putting your body under a lot of stress,” said Shaw, who has had to deal with patients weighing more than 30 stone or 420 pounds.

According to obesity statistics from the National Health Service (NHS), almost 60 percent of women and 70 percent of men are overweight or obese. Not even children are safe, as almost a third children between the ages of two to 15 are in the same state. In 2014 and 2015, the Department of Health was alleged to have spent billions of British Pounds on the treatment of obesity-related health issues. (Related: Great Britain sees spike in heart disease, cancer and stroke as two-thirds of nation is now obese)

Tam Fry, head spokesperson for the National Obesity Forum, commented: “For years governments have not taken enough interest in what's happening with the population's weight, they haven't prepared for it.”

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