The increasing number of overweight patients has resulted in a revamp for ambulance fleets across the country.
Ambulances are to be fitted with wider stretchers and lifting gear, in a move that should ease the burden on staff.
According to data obtained by the BBC thanks to freedom of information requests, every ambulance service in the UK has started buying specialist equipment.
Heavy-duty wheelchairs, stretchers and lifting cushions are now stocked as standard in ambulances.
But many ambulance services in the UK have also invested in “bariatric” ambulances to ferry the most obese patients. These vehicles cost up to £90,000 each.
They are equipped with double-width trolley stretchers that can accommodate patients weighing up to 50 stone (318lb). They also contain hoists and inflatable lifting cushions.
Operations manager at the West Midlands ambulance trust, Nigel Wells, told the BBC: “It is all about safety for our patients and safety for our crews. We have got a greater number of patients who are larger in size.
“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.”
Every ambulance trust in England, as well as the services in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland confirmed changes were being made although the pace of the approach varied, according to the data.
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