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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 17:36 GMT
Obese get new ambulances
Tony Cowley with the new bariatric ambulance
The new stretchers can carry up to 50 stones (700lbs)
New ambulances have been introduced across Wales to help paramedics deal with obese patients.

The vehicles have been specially developed with an extra wide, strengthened stretcher and a winch.

Eight of the ambulances have been deployed in Wales, three each in the south east and north regions and two in central and west Wales.

The Welsh Ambulance Service, which is pioneering the vehicles, said it had seen a 25% increase in obese patients.

The man behind their design is Welsh Ambulance Service National Fleet Manager Tony Cowley, who first developed the vehicles in his previous role with the ambulance service on Merseyside.

Their modifications include a special stretcher capable of carrying 50 stones (700lbs/ 317.5kg) - about the combined weight of the Welsh rugby team's front row- and with extra fold-out wings to accommodate wider bodies.

Three-quarters of all ambulance staff used to retire early because of back and other physical problems
Tony Cowley, Welsh Ambulance Service

They also have a winch fitted to help reduce manual handling by staff as much as possible.

Mr Cowley said: "Having vehicles like this enables our staff to transport patients with this medical problem without injuring themselves or the patient while also preserving the patient's dignity.

"They are part of our high dependency service which frees up emergency ambulances by transporting patients who don't need a blue light full-on emergency response.

"But if there is a call to transport a patient who is above the normal criteria, that is clinically obese, more than 20% above normal body weight, then these vehicles come into their own."

28-stone dummy

He said a conventional stretcher will only carry a load of up to 25 stone (350lb/ 158.7kg).

"Three-quarters of all ambulance staff used to retire early because of back and other physical problems but the equipment on these ambulances, as on our other new vehicles, reduces lifting to a minimum and safeguards our people," Mr Cowley added.

The eight ambulances are part of an ongoing modernisation of the Welsh fleet.

It comes after a north Wales company created a 28-stone training dummy to help emergency services cope with the growing number of obese people they have to rescue.

Ruth Lee Fire & Rescue Equipment from Corwen, Denbighshire, says it created the mannequin because of the demand from fire and rescue services.



SEE ALSO
Obese dummy for rescue training
16 Oct 07 |  North East Wales

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