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Wednesday, 26 July 2006 09:05
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
NHS has to buy tougher beds for obese patients
Hospital are being forced into spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on reinforced beds and strengthening mortuary slabs due to an increasing number of obese patients.

The issue was highlighted yesterday when the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital announced that it had to spend £40,000 on equipment - including beds, hoists, armchairs and commodes - to cater for obese patients.

In neighbouring Suffolk, the James Paget Hospital at Gorleston, near Lowestoft, has been forced to buy a specialist bed that will take a patient weighing up to 71 stone and two operating tables that can take people weighing up to 50 stone.

Andrew Stronach, spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich, said: "The new beds we are ordering will be able to take patients in excess of 40 stone. At the moment, if the standard beds contain a patient weighing more than 35 stone, the electric motors used to adjust the beds burn out.

"In years gone by, we would see a few patients who were very large and we would hire in a special bed on an occasional basis which could cope with people weighing up to 37 stone.

"But now we are seeing people who weigh 40 stone or more much more frequently and we are having to gear up to deal with this. Hospitals up and down the country are doing the same."

As part of a £200,000 refurbishment of the mortuary, new fridges will be installed, designed to store obese bodies. "We will be increasing the space in our mortuary by 20 per cent by adding 10 new bariatric fridges," said Mr Stronach.

Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of obesity.

"Our current fridges can accommodate bariatric bodies but a normal 10-space fridge will be filled by only four bariatric cases. We will be converting a post-mortem table so that it can take bariatric bodies. We are also spending around £17,000 on two bariatric mortuary trolleys."

Prof Peter Kopelman, director of the Institute of Health at the University of East Anglia, commented: "When you get more and more obese patients, health trusts have to provide the relevant facilities, but it is a sad indictment of our society."

Mr Stronach agreed that obesity problems were "a considerable issue, not only in terms of people's health but in the cost to the health service". He added: "It is a symptom of a major public health problem. In the past five years, we have been seeing many more adults who are very overweight and it is putting a strain on their health and on the health service. Obesity really is a major, major problem”.


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