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September 2, 2011

UK ambulance service spends millions on obese patients

By Steve Bagnall
Daily Post

LIVERPOOL, WALES — The Welsh Ambulance Service has spent pounds 4.5m  (about $7.2M dollars) on equipment to cope with obese patients in the last two years.

The Welsh Ambulance Service has had to fork out millions on specialist ambulances, inflatable lifting cushions and heavy duty stretchers to deal with increasing problem of overweight people.

Yesterday Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar AM called for the Welsh Government to tackle the growing obesity issue.

A Freedom of Information Act request showed over the last two years 42 modified ambulances were bought during 2010/11 at a cost of over pounds 3m.

It followed the purchase of 15 fully equipped A&E ambulances, bought for over pounds 1m during 2009/10.

A further 30 inflatable lifting cushions and nine heavy duty stretchers were also purchased over the last two years, at a cost of nearly pounds 140,000.

Mr Millar AM said: "While it is no surprise that the Ambulance Service has decided to invest in this equipment - the scale of the purchases really is a sad indictment of the Welsh obesity problem.

As the average weight of patients gets larger, so the NHS is faced with no option if it is to respond quickly.

"However - where this plainly shows we are still failing dramatically - is in preventative measures.

"Our spiralling obesity problem doesn't just increase the cost of NHS treatment; it also has extensive implications on infrastructure budgets." He added: "We need a new way of tackling the problem that doesn't just deal with the consequences.

"Labour should be investing in resources that confront this problem head-on, for the sake of future generations.

"It remains crucially important that people have the right information about healthy eating and healthy lifestyles - and that must start at as early an age as possible."

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "The Trust has seen a significant increase in clinically obese patients over recent years and we need to respond appropriately to their needs as well as all other patients across Wales.

"These types of vehicles and clinical equipment enable staff to transport patients with this medical condition without injuring themselves or the patient, while also preserving the patient''s dignity and giving them the best care possible."

Concerns have been raised about the growing obesity problems in Wales.

In March this year the true cost of Wales' problem with obesity and alcohol was laid out in an academic study commissioned by the Assembly Government.

Around pounds 73m is spent treating and combating obesity each year while between pounds 69.9m and pounds 73.3m is spent dealing with excessive alcohol consumption.

The figures mean the NHS in Wales spends easily more than pounds 1m a week on treating health problems caused by alcohol misuse and another pounds 1m fighting obesity.

And the authors of the report feared the cost could be even higher.

Copyright 2011 The Liverpool Daily Post & Echo Ltd

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