Belfast Telegraph

Ambulance vehicles in Northern Ireland adapted to deal with obese patients up to 63 stone

By Victoria O'Hara

Ambulance vehicles in Northern Ireland are being adapted to deal with obese patients up to 63 stone amid warnings the obesity crisis here is growing.

New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show there are now more than 800 ambulances - often costing about £100,000 each - across the UK which have either been designed or adapted to deal with patients weighing more than 50 stone (318kg).

The vehicles are reinforced and have larger doors and more space inside. However, unlike the rest of the UK, where services have had to buy specialist "bariatric" ambulances, the Ambulance Service in Northern Ireland only modifies existing ambulances.

The findings revealed that many trusts in other parts of the UK are now equipping their entire fleet to deal with obese patients. The East of England Ambulance Service recently trialled a new specialist unit to deal with obese patients and, over eight months, it was called upon 260 times.

Between 2006 and 2011 nine non-emergency ambulances were outfitted to support bariatric patients in Northern Ireland. John McPoland from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service confirmed that special adaptations have been made to vehicles here since 2006.

"From May 2013-since 2006-the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has ensured that all additions to non-emergency fleet are specified or adapted to treat patients weighing 63 stone," he said.

Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr John O'Kelly warned the obesity crisis will continue to grow if not addressed properly.

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