Highlands tips the scales for fire service obese rescues

The Highlands and Clackmannanshire have topped the charts for regions where firefighters have been called out most to rescue obese people over the past three years.

Firefighters have been called out to the Highlands and Clackmannanshire to rescue obese people more frequently than in any other region. Picture: PA

A total of 29 rescues have taken place across the Highland Council area since the beginning of 2013, while in Clackmannanshire firefighters were called out 23 times.

Across Scotland the fire service has been called out more than 100 times over the same period to aid paramedics with “bariatric rescues”.

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Often firefighters can help lift patients without equipment – but they have also used animal harnesses, a bariatric stretcher and a hydraulic winch.

One health expert warned that such instances will continue to increase as “the obese get obeser”.

Experts have previously warned of an “obesity epidemic” in Scotland with almost two-thirds of adults being overweight or obese in 2014, according to The
Scottish Health Survey.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “One of the most depressing aspects of today’s epidemic is that, although the number of obese individuals may be levelling off, the obese are getting obeser.

“These are the people having to be winched from their homes, often with serious medical problems that have been triggered by their obesity.”

He added: “Even if an onslaught against obesity were to be made today, it will be another five to ten years before any significant improvement will be noticed.

“A prediction was made in 2007 that by 2050 half the country would be obese. That is the severity of the problem you are looking at.” Statistics released in response to a freedom of information request reveal that 111 bariatric rescues have been undertaken by firefighters since 1 January, 2013.

The fire service was unable to estimate how much each rescue cost, as “there are too many variables”.

A spokesman said: “While the transportation and care of bariatric patients is a medical issue, we do provide assistance to our partner agencies whenever it is appropriate.

“Where we have resources and specialist skills that could assist them in the safe resolution of an incident then of course we do so.”