Norfolk’s new ambulances to meet rise in obesity
The region's ambulance service has been buying bigger and stronger vehicles so it can cope with the growing rise in obesity, it has been revealed.
Ambulance fleets across the country are being revamped with wider stretchers and lifting gear to cope with the increasing number of obese patients and the East of England Ambulance Service said it had taken the decision to gradually replace its old ambulances with more expensive ones which can carry heavier patients.
The old ambulances have a tail lift capable of lifting 350kg, (55 stone) whereas the new vehicles can cope with 500kg (78 stone).
They are also wide enough to allow a bariatric stretcher to be loaded and have an alternative location system to enable the stretcher to be mounted in the centre of the ambulance.
The wider 500kg capacity vehicles have been gradually replacing outdated stock over the past three years as part of the trust's normal vehicle replacement rolling programme at a cost of about �100,000 each - about �800 more than the vehicles previously used.
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By the end of March the service will have 166 of the new ambulances, out of a total fleet of 271. The trust said it had not purchased any other specific equipment for bariatric care.
The latest figures show people registered as obese in the East of England rose by 28,000 in just 12 months, up to a current figure of almost half a million.
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A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: 'As emergency healthcare providers we must be geared up to respond immediately to life threatening conditions for all patients and have procedures in place to ensure that they can be moved safely and with dignity.'
Jo Webber, director of the Ambulance Service Network, said: 'Just like the rest of the NHS, ambulance services have to deal with the fact patients are getting larger. Trusts need to be able to respond immediately to what could be life-threatening situations.
'Buying special equipment to meet this need is an essential part of providing quality care for patients.
'Nevertheless, focusing on prevention and working with the rest of the NHS to encourage people to make healthy choices is the only way to address these issues in the longer term.'