An NHS health trust has spent £5,000 on a super-sized ambulance – which can carry patients weighing up to 110 stone.
South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust invested in the vehicle after the number of obese patients increased 10-fold in five years.
The vehicle, called a bariatric or ‘chronically obese’ ambulance, can carrying up to two patients with a combined weight of 110 stone – the equivalent of five baby elephants.
Previously, ambulances could only carry patients who weighed up to 20 stone, but the new bariatric ambulance – originally used to transport up to four heart patients – can carry up to two 55 stone patients at once.
In extreme cases, the ambulance can carry individual patients who weigh up to 70 stones (445kg) on a reinforced extra-wide bed.
Doug Sinclair, head of patient transport services, said: ”This is the only one we think that can take more than one bariatric patient at once.
”It’s only something that’s come to the fore in the ambulance service in the last three to four years.
”We have a duty to protect our staff and we have to supply the right vehicles.
”Mainly it’s for the health and safety of the staff and the dignity and respect of the patient.
”We have had some very large people who we have had to move.
”Before, we were just managing and using inadequate equipment for the weight involved.”
The number of obese patients needing hospital treatment has increased from five a year in 2005 to 52 last year – a ten-fold increase.
Ambulance staff now respond to an average of one obese patient call-out a day compared with just two a week two years ago.
The new ambulance is a converted Iveco 65C truck and is almost two feet wider and two feet higher than normal ambulances.
It also comes with two 3ft 6in wide ‘bariatric’ trolleys and a 7ft wide tail lift capable of carrying more than one tonne in weight.
It has also been fitted with an on-board winch to lift patients into the back.
London Ambulance Service are also considering reinforcing a number of their vehicles to cope with a growing number of obese patients in the capital.
* Private firm M&L Ambulance Service supplies vehicles for obese patients in London, the south east and the Isle of Wight but this is the first time an NHS Trust has converted their own dedicated bariatric ambulance.