£1m spent to cater for expected rise in obese patients

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MORE than £1m has been spent on buying stretchers, winches and chairs by the county’s ambulance service to help cope with obese patients.

In the past three years South Central Ambulance Service said it has spent the cash to upgrade equipment on ambulances.

It says the move was to cater for a predicted rise in even larger patients in the future.

Spokesman James Keating-Wilkes said: ‘What we have done is installed Stryker chairs, which would take patients as heavy as 36 stone.

‘We have stretchers for patients that weigh up to 50 stone.

‘We have done this because we have pre-empted there will be a rise in the future in the number of obese patients.

‘In the past three years we have reviewed the necessary equipment our service would need to provide the best possible care for the majority of patients.’

On average a stretcher to deal with a larger patient costs £7,000.

But the ambulance service was unable to say how many they had bought and how much they had spent on each one.

The £1m figure for buying new equipment for obese patients was released following a Freedom of Information request to all ambulance trusts in the UK.

The South Central Ambulance Service, which covers Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Buckinghamshire, last year became the first trust in England to have a bariatric ambulance – a special vehicle mainly used to transport obese patients to and from their homes to medical appointments.

It is currently stationed in Buckinghamshire.

A spokeswoman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance said the money needed to be spent.

But she said people should be more responsible for their weight.

Emma Boon said: ‘No-one wants to be as callous as to say don’t send out ambulances to people if they’re bigger.

‘Therefore the ambulance service needs to spend the money. But it’s unfortunate that people are not taking responsibility for their own actions and becoming obese.

‘I think tax payers will be quite shocked to see the amount, especially at a time when there are budget cuts.’