Costs of obesity crisis facing British NHS 'unsustainable'
Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30
The obesity crisis in the UK is so serious that National Health Service hospitals are buying specialist equipment to keep bodies cool because they are too large to fit into mortuary fridges.
They are also having to widen corridors, buy reinforced beds and lifting equipment in order to cope with the growing numbers of obese patients coming though their doors.
Hospitals have spent at least £5.5m (€6.8m) over the past three years to allow the treatment of larger patients. Experts warn that the cost of treating overweight and obese patients could rise to at least £10m (€12.5) a year as the British population's waistlines continue to expand.
A quarter of adults in the UK are estimated to be obese and the number is expected to grow to account for more than half in the next 30 years.
Hospitals are buying specialist beds, wheelchairs, toilets and crutches for obese patients, a Freedom of Information request shows.
Yeovil District Hospital NHS Trust spent £15,000 (€18,812) on a bariatric body cooling system, which is used to keep the bodies of obese patients cool when they do not fit in standard-size mortuary fridges.
At Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, £30,000 (€37,624) was spent on a body store fridge for obese patients in 2013, and the year before £20,000 (€25,083) was spent to strengthen an operating theatre floor. Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Trust spent £80,000 (€100,332) widening corridors to accommodate obese patients, while Milton Keynes Hospital spent £65 (€81) a day hiring a bed capable of holding a patient that weighed almost half a ton (63st).
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London cardiologist and science director of campaign group Action on Sugar, said that the cost of treating obesity and diet-related disease was "unsustainable". He said: "Inaction is not an option. I think diets should be made part of health policy.
"We need to tackle the root cause, the food environment, otherwise we will be crippled by the cost."
The Government's Foresight report into obesity predicted in 2007 that 50pc of adults will be obese by 2050. The NHS already spends around £4.7bn tackling the health problems associated with obesity.
Dr Matthew Capehorn, a GP and clinical director of the Rotherham Institute for Obesity, said that the £5.5m (€6.8m) spent over three years was "a major underestimate". "Some NHS trusts will have equipment for doing bariatric surgery or bigger couches that might not be included in these figures, like the cost of changing the entire structure of a department to cater for wider beds," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)