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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2007, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
New rules to treat obese patients
large belly
Obesity is becoming commonplace
Anaesthetists have been given guidance on dealing with very obese patients amid safety concerns.

Latest figures show over a fifth of UK men and women are obese and 2.9% of women and 1% of men are obese to the point that it threatens their health.

Yet many hospitals still do not have necessary kit, such as strong beds, for heavy weight patients.

The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland says better planning is needed to avoid disasters.

Our fear is that there are many hospitals out there that do not have plans or the equipment for treating people of these sizes and patient safety is at risk
Honorary Secretary Dr William Harrop-Griffiths

Dr William Harrop-Griffiths, honorary secretary of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), explained that every major hospital was likely to have to deal with patients whose weight exceeds 150kg (23.6 stones).

"It is now a problem that is presenting itself to every hospital in the country, not just a few and not just occasionally.

"Where as before you might see one obese patient every few months, now it's becoming an almost weekly problem in some places.

"Our fear is that there are many hospitals out there that do not have plans or the equipment for treating people of these sizes and patient safety is at risk."

Extra care

The guidance warns that simply treating these patients as being "larger than usual" is inappropriate.

Additional, specialised equipment is often necessary. And the availability of this equipment needs to be planned in advance rather than when a patient appears.

Every hospital that does surgery should provide at least one theatre and a number of critical care beds equipped for morbidly obese patients and ensure that all beds, trolleys and operating tables are clearly marked with maximum weight loads, it says.

And items such as larger gowns, stockings, blood pressure cuffs and tourniquets should be available.

Professor Alastair Chambers, of the AAGBI, who helped write the guidance, said: "All staff who may need to deal with morbidly obese patients need special training because of the physical problems of positioning and caring for them.

"And special equipment must be available in all hospitals."

Dr David Haslam of the National Obesity Forum said: "The obesity problem is not going to go away. Services are not geared up for this at all. It is about time the manufacturers and service providers caught up."




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