Northern Ireland firefighters called out 200 times to lift obese people out of homes
Fire officers were called out almost 200 times in the last three years to lift obese people from their homes in Northern Ireland, new figures show.
Teams across the UK were called out more than 2,000 times since 2017 to transfer obese patients from their homes and into a waiting ambulance so they could get to hospital.
The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the country's 53 services by The i newspaper.
The data includes incidents where patients were moved for assessment as well as those taken to hospital and incidents where the Fire Service removed windows or widened doors to help extract the patient from their home, but not actually lift the patient.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) confirmed that between January 2017 and December 2019, its officers attended 198 bariatric patient rescues.
A spokesman said: "As a fire and rescue service, NIFRS has a duty to help rescue people from emergency situations.
"NIFRS works closely with colleagues from NI Ambulance Service to provide appropriate assistance and specialist equipment to help with the transfer to medical care of bariatric patients. Since April 2015 NIFRS and NIAS have a 'memorandum of understanding' (MoU) relating to the rescue of bariatric patients.
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"It clarifies roles and responsibilities for planning, training, mobilising and inter-agency working at an incident.
"Each incident is individually assessed and decisions are made on the appropriate rescue techniques required, including specialist equipment and manual handling techniques, to ensure the safety of all involved and the dignity of the patient," the spokesman added.
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: "The escalating number of people having to be winched from their bedrooms to undergo weight loss surgery in hospital is testimony to three decades of Whitehall's completely inadequate measures to tackle obesity.
"Successive Governments have dithered since the 1990s to take the bold moves needed in the misplaced hope that the epidemic, dubbed a 'time bomb' by 2003, would never go off. It did.
"The UK is now paying £24bn a year in cleaning up the mess which, in the majority of cases, could have been avoided.
"We are not winning the war on obesity and never will until government gets really serious about the issue."
Last month Northern Ireland's chief medical officer said people must be inspired to take up healthier lifestyles to tackle the obesity epidemic.
Dr Michael McBride made the comments as an update was published on a 10-year obesity strategy from the Department of Health.
In 2012 59% of adults over 16 and 27% of children aged two to 15 in Northern Ireland were overweight or obese.
For 2017/18 obesity levels increased for adults to 64% and remained static for children at 27%.
The 2022 10-year target is a fall to 56% for adults and 25% for children.