High cost of obesity

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THE amount of money spent by Wigan hospitals on equipment for obese patients has more than quadrupled over the last three years.

Figures released through a Freedom of Information request have revealed that obesity is costing Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) more every year.

The data revealed that WWL spent £11,800 in 2008/09 on bariatric equipment, used for people who are too heavy for standard equipment.

However, last year this increased to £64,700, and the previous year (2009/10) thee trust spent £30,400.

Equipment such as reinforced beds, theatre tables, commodes, chairs, trolleys and wheelchairs is costing hospitals across the country more as the obesity epidemic takes more money out of already stretched health budgets.

Despite not carrying out weight loss procedures in the borough, the costs have soared for WWL.

However, NHS Ashton Leigh and Wigan (ALW) says it is a priority, and that obesity is being combated.

A spokesman for NHS ALW said: “As highlighted in the new Call to Action on Obesity, the trend in the percentage of children and young people classed as overweight and obese has been upward over the past decade, but now appears to be levelling off.

“NHS ALW and Wigan Council have commissioned a range of services that support children and young people to maintain weight throughout the borough.

“Dieting is not encouraged, and instead we promote physical activity, such as walking, swimming and outdoor play, and endorse healthy eating, including consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and a reduction in the amount of high fat and sugary foods and drinks.

“With regards to adults, the upward trend in overweight, and obesity also appears to be levelling off. NHS Ashton Leigh and Wigan have invested substantially in weight management services over the last five years.

“The adult care pathway for managing excess weight in adults Lose Weight, Feel Great has provided tailored advice and practical support to more than 15,000 people living in the Wigan borough.

“The programmes offer the opportunity to meet new people, get active, find out about eating healthily and show you that small changes can make a big difference. A new service targeting men will be available in early 2012.”

WWL reiterated their plans not to offer weight loss surgery in the borough.

Gastric bypass procedures are not carried out at any of the trust’s hospitals.

In February this year it was revealed that North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) had to invest in ‘heavyweight’ ambulances to cope with the rising number of obese patients.

The ambulances – costing £90,000 each – are designed so that double-width trolley stretchers for patients up to 50 stone (318kg) can be accommodated. They often include hoists and inflatable lifting cushions.

In June, childhood obesity was targeted as a key area of concern for Wigan’s health authorities.

Wigan Borough’s director of public health, Dr Kate Ardern, said: “In terms of childhood obesity we did manage to get the message through at a very young age, but it appears we have to work harder with the older end of primary school pupils. We are working hard with schools to try to drive down this number, so children can become healthier.”

WWL refused to comment on the cost of the bariatric equipment.

For families who would like to more support about healthy weight contact the Fit 4 Fun Academy on 01942 776192 which delivers a range of healthy lifestyles programmes for five to 17-year-olds.