Obesity ambulances, costing up to £90,000 each, have been introduced to help medics cope with the increasing number of fat patients.
All across the country, ambulance services are being fitted with heavy-duty equipment to deal with overweight patients, however, even with these extra materials onboard, the ambulance crew and their vehicles can only carry a person weighing up to 20 stone.
Instead, new special bariatric ambulances with double-width trolley stretchers will accommodate patients of up to 318kg (50 stone).
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But these vehicles don’t come cheap. With their huge patient area at the back of the ambulances as well as life-saving equipment, the vehicles cost a whopping 90,000 each.
Extra equipment also needed to carry obese patients onboard include lifting cushions costing about £2,500, stretchers between £7,000 to £10,000 and reinforcement of an ambulance tail-lift comes in at about £800 per vehicle.
Jo Webber, director of the Ambulance Service Network, talked to the BBC about the new size of patients and their needs: “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”.
She also spoke of the huge amount of money involved trying to accommodate obese patients.
“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.”
Even though the introduction of the new ambulances comes at a huge cost, James Keating-Wilkes, a spokesman for South Central Ambulance Service explained why they are necessary in today’s society.
Speaking to The Telegraph he said: “In recent years we have witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of calls to transport obese patients to hospital.
“The problem we had in the past was that we had to call on our colleagues in the fire service for help in winching patients into our ambulances.
“We also struggled in many situations because our ambulances were not capable of carrying some very heavy patients and there were also a lot of injuries sustained trying to lift them.”