Government slammed over obesity stats as rescue figures soar

Avon and Fire Rescue Service

Avon and Fire Rescue Service - Credit: Archant

Firefighters have revealed obesity is an increasingly big problem as crews were required to move severely overweight people on more than a dozen occasions last year.

Figures by the Home Office show crews from Avon Fire and Rescue Service attended 16 callouts for bariatric assistance - helping ambulance staff to move obese people - in 2018-19.

That was higher than the nine incidents recorded in the previous year and more than double the cases seen in 2012-13, when records began.

In Avon, 56 per cent of bariatric assistances required more than one fire engine or other vehicle in attendance, while one required four or more.

Firefighters commonly spent between 15 and 30 minutes at the scene, and at least 10 crew members were required for five of the callouts.

They also often need lifting equipment and special slings to transport obese people, and sometimes remove windows, walls and banisters.

Chairman of the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry said, the failure of successive governments to tackle the country's obesity problem was to blame for the 'appalling' figures.

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He said: "As the already fat get even fatter, expect an even larger number next year.

"Society's main concern must be that crews engaged hauling the morbidly obese from their houses are unavailable to fulfil their principal duty of hauling people from burning buildings.

"If one death should occur as a result, it would be a calamity and rightly see the Government disgraced."

Freedom of Information requests to some fire and rescue services have shown the average cost to them of a callout is £400, meaning the cost of bariatric assistance in Avon last year came to around £6,400.

Across England, crews recorded more than 1,200 incidents last year, a 17 per cent rise on 2017-18 and almost triple the 429 recorded in 2012-13.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "Tackling obesity is a priority for this government, and we are committed to halving childhood obesity rates by 2030.

"Robust government action has decreased the sugar content in soft drinks by almost a third, and we've invested millions promoting physical activity in schools."