Mov­ing obese peo­ple costs fire crew thou­sands

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

And the num­ber of cases na­tion­wide nearly dou­bled over the same pe­riod, with unions say­ing am­bu­lance staff and equip­ment are be­ing pushed to their lim­its.

Fig­ures from the Home Of­fice show the Buck­ing­hamshire and Mil­ton Keynes Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice at­tended 51 call­outs for bariatric as­sis­tance – help­ing am­bu­lance crews to move obese peo­ple – be­tween April 2012 and March 2017.

While they rep­re­sent a small amount of the ser­vice’s 10,000 non-fire inci- dents over the last few years, the ma­jor­ity of call­outs took more than one hour to re­solve. Of those, five in­ci­dents were more than four hours long.

Fire­fight­ers of­ten need lift­ing equip­ment and spe­cial slings to trans­port peo­ple, and some­times re­move win­dows, walls and ban­is­ters.

Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quests to some fire and res­cue ser­vices have shown that the av­er­age cost of a call­out is £400. For some non-emer­gency cases, ser­vices have been able to re­cover costs since leg­is­la­tion was put in place in 2004.

Bariatric as­sis­tance call­outs have be­come more com­mon in re­cent years, with the Buck­ing­hamshire and Mil­ton Keynes Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice record­ing 13 in­ci­dents in 2016-17. In 2012-13, there were just six.

Across Eng­land, fire and res­cue ser­vices at­tended 851 bariatric as­sis­tance cases in 2016-17, a 98% in­crease on five years pre­vi­ously.

Uni­son’s na­tional am­bu­lance of­fi­cer, Alan Loft­house, said that judge­ment on whether bariatric as­sis­tance was re­quired was made by paramedics on a case-by-case ba­sis.

He said: “Obe­sity can be a real is­sue for am­bu­lance staff try­ing to help crit­i­cally ill pa­tients.

“Am­bu­lance equip­ment has a safe work­ing load, and push­ing the limit puts pa­tients and staff at risk.

“In an emer­gency a para­medic has to make a judg­ment call on how best to help an obese pa­tient, and in some in- stances this means call­ing for as­sis­tance from other ser­vices.”

Tam Fry, the chair­man of the Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum, which aims to raise aware­ness of obe­sity in the coun­try, said: “The leap in the fre­quency that fire crews have to winch very obese peo­ple from their homes is truly shock­ing.

“The fig­ures will con­tinue to rise, how­ever, even if the gov­ern­ment were to im­ple­ment dras­tic mea­sures to com­bat the epi­demic to­day.

“It’s the in­evitable re­sult of decades of West­min­ster fail­ing to pro­duce any strat­egy to help lessen the chances of the fat from get­ting fat­ter.”

Data: uk/gov­ern­ment/sta­tis­ti­cal-data-sets/fire-sta­tis­tics-data-tables

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