Scottish mortuaries install larger fridges amid obesity crisis

The nation's obesity epidemic has forced mortuaries to install bigger fridges. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The nation's obesity epidemic has forced mortuaries to install bigger fridges. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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Hospitals in Scotland have been forced to install oversized mortuary fridges in a further sign of the impact of rising obesity problems.

There have been 41 installations across the country of fridges with additional capacity to cope with larger corpses in the past five years, research from the Conservatives found.

NHS Grampian has installed 25 spaces for “semi-obese” people and a further three marked as “obese” at its facility at the Foresterhill Health Campus, according to a freedom of information request to NHS boards.

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Obesity is fast-becoming Scotland’s number one health crisis. This is a problem across all age groups and all sections of society.

“It means people’s lives are being needlessly cut short and the cost to the NHS is rising.

“This research shows the situation is even forcing health boards to invest in bigger mortuary fridges to cater for those obese patients who have passed away.

“Far more work is needed across the board to help get Scotland’s population fitter and healthier.”

NHS Grampian says all of its new mortuary fridges are now equipped to “all sizes”.

A spokesman said: “Over the last two years capacity at the Foresterhill Health Campus mortuary has almost doubled. This has been done to ensure it can continue to meet demand during busy periods and deal with the future needs of the increasing population in the region. All fridges installed during these improvements have larger spaces to ensure that they can accommodate all sizes of deceased.”

NHS Lanarkshire said it had created six new spaces for larger patients since 2013, while NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde put in three.

Lothians Health Board said
two obese fridges were installed last year, while work was under way on the refrigerated body store at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary “which will increase capacity for bariatric deceased patients”.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway confirmed it has also introduced two over-sized fridges. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of adults over the age of 16 in Scotland were classed as overweight last year, including 29 per cent who were obese, according to official statistics. There was a significant increase between 2003 and 2008, when prevalence increased from 62 per cent to 65 per cent.

Levels of obesity do increase with age. In 2017, 69 per cent of Scots women were classed to have an increased health risk based on their body mass index (BMI) and waist size. For men the figure was 58 per cent. More than half of women (57 per cent) were categorized as high risk or above, while for men it was 42 per cent.