Increase in the number of severely obese people being rescued from their homes

Firefighters are hit by record numbers of bariatric rescues

Railings, windows and walls were removed to aid in the complex rescue operations (Picture: Getty)

Firefighters are rescuing more severely obese people from their homes than ever before.

Hoists and slings are used to lift residents who are too heavy to leave their homes alone.

Crews often have to remove railings, windows and walls to aid in complex rescue operations that can take hours.

Home Office figures show firefighters in England attended a record 1,641 “bariatric assists” in 2020-21.

Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Unfortunately, these numbers will continue to rise for many years to come.

“Even if the government’s recent plans to tackle obesity are finally implemented, hundreds of rescue teams will still be needed to get them from their homes and to hospital for treatment.

“30 years of political indifference are responsible for this desperate situation.”

Obesity assistance is the term for specialized treatments for obesity, including providing assistance because they are trapped inside due to their mass.

Although these incidents are still relatively rare, the number has steadily increased over the past decade.

42,000,000 adults in the UK are projected to be obese or overweight by 2040

Experts warn 42,000,000 adults in the UK will be obese by 2040 (Image: PA)

2020-21 deployments increased 24% from 1,326 before the pandemic in 2019-20.

In 2012, the first year such numbers were recorded, there were 429 of the incidents, and the number has been increasing every year.

At least seven fire engines were called to participate in 11 bariatric rescue operations in 2020–21, and at least four vehicles were used in 187 operations.

One of the rescues required the assistance of 30 to 39 firefighters.

In 59% of incidents, firefighters spent an hour or less providing assistance, but in 41 of them officers were occupied for more than four hours.

The number of available firefighters has dwindled since bariatric rescue operations were first recorded in 2012.

In 2021 there were 35,279 firefighters in England. That is 6,779 fewer than in 2012.

Measures to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis include calorie information on menus and food labels for companies with more than 250 employees.

The rules restricting the online advertising of less healthy foods will come into effect in October.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Bariatric incidents accounted for 0.3% of the 518,261 fire and rescue incidents that occurred in 2020/21. Fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work – in total they will receive around £2.5bn in 2022/23.”

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Justin Scacco

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