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Science Thursday, February 3rd 2011 at 4:05 pm

UK Ambulances Brace For Larger Patients

The BBC is reporting that U.K. ambulance services are having to upgrade their equipment to handle an increasing number of heavy patients. Wider and heavy-duty stretchers, lifting apparatus, and automobile reinforcements are among some of the purchases. One London-based ambulance firm has purchased two “bariatric” vehicles with a third on the way.

The problem is two fold: First, because of the nature of their work, ambulances need to be prepared to accommodate any patient. There may not be time to get specialized equipment, so entire fleets must be upgraded. Speaking to the BBC, operations manager at the South Central ambulance trust Nigel Wells said, “it is all about safety for our patients and safety for our crews.”

Second, ambulance companies are reporting that, in general, they are seeing an increasing number of heavy patients. Again, Nigel Wells:

A few years ago – probably only 10 years ago – your average patient was 12 to 13 stone, now that’s probably 17 to 18 stone. And we quite regularly see patients around 30 stone in weight and even bigger than that.

Though the U.K. has a very different health care system, it has the third highest obesity rate after Mexico and the United States. If our friends across the pond are struggling with these issues now, it’s a sure bet our health system is as well, and these upgrades — and the costs associated with them — may already be hitting consumers. Perhaps now would be a good time to address the issue of how the least expensive food is often the worst for you.

(via BBC)

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