Figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 Live show that the number of obese people being rescued by the fire service, because they are too large to move on their own, has gone up by more than a third over the past three years.
‘Bariatric’ rescues, which involve coming to the aid of severely obese people, who are often stuck in their homes, have increased from 709 in 2012-13 to 944 in 2015-16 – figures collected from all 50 UK fire and rescue services show.
The cases recorded included helping the ambulance service with lifting equipment to remove an “extremely large” patient who had been stuck on the sofa for days and carrying a 40-stone man from the upstairs of a pub.
Dr David Kerrigan, one of the UK’s leading bariatric surgeons, said patients who become that big “are prisoners, not just within their own body but within their own home”.
He said: “This is not about more people being obese. This is about those who are already obese now getting to a size where they now need assistance.”
Chris Jones, watch manager from South Wales Fire Service, which carried out the highest number of rescues last year, said his team were now equipped to deal with severely obese people but some of the rescues were very complicated.
“Some of these incidents have become protracted overnight while we’ve needed to change certain elements to the building to make that rescue safe before we can bring the patient out.
“If we are doing what we call an external rescue where we’re taking the patient out through a window, quite commonly we’ll remove the window frame itself and we will actually sometimes drop courses of brickwork down to create that space.
“Internally we might have to take doors off, move furniture, we may even have to put supporting systems into the house to make sure everything’s structurally sound as well.”