Rising obesity levels lead to increased ambulance costs

Ambulance services across England have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to ensure vehicles can cope with a growing number of obese patients, says the BBC, with bariatric ambulances being specially designed and equipped – in response to a 10-fold spike in hospital visits linked to obesity in the past decade.

The number of admissions has increased from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016 and figures show the North West had the highest number of obesity-related admissions in 2016, with 78,000. This region’s ambulance service has eight bariatric vehicles, used 40,000 times in four years, and has spent £184,000 on specialist equipment since 2015.

Richard Webber, from the College of Paramedics, said investment was crucial across the country for both patients and staff.
He told the BBC: “The retirement age is now 67 for paramedics and ambulance service staff. That’s pretty hard, to be working carrying patients up and down stairs at that age, and patients are getting heavier.”

South East Coast Ambulance has spent £562,000 on three ambulances reinforced to take heavy loads since 2010. They have been used 1,700 times in five years, while other vehicles have been fitted with lifts and large stretchers at a cost of £36,000.

Former ambulance technician Rob Shaw told the BBC he had to deal with patients weighing more than 30 stone (190.5kg).

He said: “When someone is in front of you, taking their last breaths, you‘ve got to do something. There’s no time for warm up exercises, you’re putting your body under a lot of stress.”

Obesity statistics from the NHS show that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight while a third of children aged two to 15 are also overweight or obese. The Department of Health said it spends more each year on the treatment of obesity related ill-health – a total of £5.1 billion in 2014/15 – than the government does on the police, fire service and judicial system combined.

Dealing with weight issues is becoming more important and statistics show that dieting is not always successful. But clinical hypnotherapy can help and the National Council for Hypnotherapy has therapists across the UK who can help people with weight management.

Managing weight loss is one of the most effective results of hypnotherapy,” says the NCH. “Rather than just reducing calories that you are likely to put on again in the longer term, hypnosis gets you in touch with the reasons why you unconsciously eat.”

The national body, with almost 2,000 highly-trained and qualified therapists on its directory, adds: “As well as stopping compulsive eating, hypnosis can increase your motivation for exercise.

“It can also help you reduce portion sizes so you lose weight healthily, steadily and for the long term. Losing weight with hypnosis is essentially about teaching you to feel good about yourself, whatever size you are. It focuses on making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle that will remain with you for the rest of your life.”

Hypnotherapy for weight loss is about changing lifelong negative habits around food and body image, concludes the NCH, adding that the best results are often when committing to a programme of treatment.

Referring to the need for specialised ambulances, Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “For years governments have not taken enough interest in what’s happening with the population’s weight, they haven’t prepared for it. You can’t expect a very overweight person, who is very poor even, to pay for that kind of service.”

The BBC quoted an Essex man, who weighs 31 stone (196.8kg) as saying he can barely walk around his flat. For the past two years, the only time he has left home is to attend hospital appointments with the support of the ambulance service providing specialist stair-lift equipment.

He said: “This life is so frustrating. I’m independent and I hate asking for help and being a burden. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and I’ve tried dieting, but the weight always goes back on again.”

Rather than be in that situation, why not contact the NCH if you are obese, find that diets do not work or have weight management issues? It could be a life-saving decision…

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