999 teams fighting obesity war

Emergency services rescue an obese patient
Emergency services rescue an obese patient

OBESITY is increasingly becoming a concern for emergency services.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) confirmed that crews from Wigan, Atherton, Hindley and Leigh fire stations had all undergone training to deal with obese people in distress.

Figures revealed by GMFRS show that on six occasions in the past three years, fire crews have had to assist ambulance crews in helping obese patients get to hospital.

A spokesperson for the North West Ambulance Service said, “We receive over one million emergency calls a year; our aim is to treat every patient with the same dignity and standard of care, no matter of what their situation is.

“There are occasions when we request the assistance of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, and we work in partnership to provide the best possible level of care to the patient.”

In August it was revealed that fire crews across the region were called out 72 times since 2009 for so-called ‘bariatric assists’ – when paramedics need help moving or releasing someone because of their weight.

It was also revealed in April that Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust (PCT) paid out £190,000 for bariatric surgery including gastric band and gastric bypass operations.

The cost of having a gastric band fitted can cost up to £8,000 and up to £15,000 for a gastric bypass operation.

A spokesperson for GMFRS said: “Crews do have some bariatric training but it is mainly around training hydraulic platform instructors to have the necessary skills so they can move an individual and place them on a stretcher so that they can be treated. All other personnel are given an awareness when they attend the safe working at height training.”

A single incident can cost several thousand pounds and cases include people who have got stuck in the bath.

Some fire services say they will now only respond when a person needs urgent medical attention.

The Chief Fire Officers Association says the fire services’ ethos is to assist people in distress or at risk.

They say many UK fire and rescue services have developed protocols for attendance at bariatric assists with local ambulance trusts.

In a statement it said: “Our firefighters respond professionally to a variety of challenges and continue to provide a world class emergency service.”