By Oliver Farrimond
NHS SCOTLAND have spent almost ?200,000 on a fleet of specially modified “fat ambulances” to carry Scotland’s increasingly obese population to hospital.
Health bosses feared that regular ambulances not being outfitted to properly cope with overweight casualties could lead to a torrent of damaging lawsuits.
Roughly ?189,000 has been spent on modifying regular ambulances to cope with transporting morbidly obese patients weighing 20 stone or more.
The “fat ambulances” are regularly used to transport obese patients to an Aberdeen hospital where the only MRI machine in the UK able to scan them is located.
The bariatric MRI scanner at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen can analyse patients too fat to fit in normal scanners, as it allows them to be standing or sitting, as opposed to lying down inside a narrow tube.
Tory Health Spokesman Mary Scanlon said: “The cost of converting ambulances to carry obese people is a sign of the time.
“But obese or not, every patient has the right to treatment in the NHS.
“What I find ridiculous is that these ambulances are being used to ferry patients on a 300-mile round trip from Glasgow to Aberdeen for routine scans.
“That represents a huge waste of time, money and resources.
“It’s time for the West of Scotland to review whether it has the critical mass of fat people to justify investing in its own bariatric scanner.”
Scottish hospitals are believed to be spending an average of ?60,000 a year on special equipment for overweight patients, including reinforced wheelchairs, long-reach surgical instruments, patient hoists and plus-sized hospital beds and chairs.
And bosses at the Scottish Ambulance Service have admitted that they frequently have to ask the fire brigade for special lifting equipment when dealing with obese patients.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Our fleet mix includes bariatric ambulances, which ensures that we can observe the dignity of obese patients and minimize moving and handling injuries to staff.”
Scotland’s weight problem now costs taxpayers roughly ?175 million a year, with Scotland now the second fattest nation in the world behind the United States.
One in five Scots children are clinically obese, and health experts have calculated that obesity causes roughly 3,400 deaths in Scotland a year.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “The latest obesity road map report from Scottish Public Health Minister Shona Robinson has enormous numbers attached to it.
“The figures are truly shocking and the minister has a hell of a job in front of her.”