Ambulance equipment for obese patients costs £3.5m

There has been a 143 per cent increase in severely overweight patients. Picture: Ian Georgeson
There has been a 143 per cent increase in severely overweight patients. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AMBULANCE chiefs have been forced to spend an estimated £3.5 million on specialist equipment to treat obese Scottish patients.

The move follows a 143 per cent increase in the number of severely overweight patients requiring ambulance treatment – up from around 7,000 in 2010 to more than 17,000 last year.

The extra money spent went towards extra-wide wheelchairs, walking frames for those weighing up to 50 stone, and extra-strength mats used to drag obese patients who cannot be carried.

The figure also included 690 patient lifting cushions – devices which are inflated under individuals weighing up to 70 stone who cannot stand on their own.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).

Documents provided revealed that the SAS currently owns 1048 pieces of specialist “bariatric” equipment designed for response to overweight patients.

The fleet of ambulances across Scotland currently has 53 evacuation mats and sheets – designed to drag patients of up to 70 stone who cannot be carried.

Ambulance bosses refused to provide figures for the cost of equipment, claiming the information was “commercially sensitive”, but manufacturers’ prices available online range from £150 and £645, depending on the model.

The SAS also has a fleet of 122 chairs designed to carry patients weighing up to 50 stone up and down stairs. Some models are electrically powered whilst others are manually operated - but a total estimated cost of the chairs, based on online prices, comes in at £673,000.

Ambulance bosses bought 16 reinforced zimmer frames , at a likely cost of £1,500, 16 extra wide wheelchairs, which could have cost as much as £46,400, and 151 trolley cots capable of carrying obese patients, which would cost online up to £558,700.

But the most cash is likely to have been spent on 690 patient lifting cushions – inflatable devices which slide underneath obese patients before being filled with air, bringing them to their feet.

Medical retailers charge in the region of £3,095 for the devices, meaning that the SAS is likely to have spent around £2,135,550 on the modified gadgets.

The total estimated cost of the equipment is £3,441,451.

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We currently transfer over one million patients to and from their healthcare appointments of whom approximately 2 per cent may require additional specialist support due to obesity. This rate is increasing.”