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I intended to write about the Scottish NHS spending £6 million on beds for obese patients but Conan beat me to it.
However, I'll proceed because the subject is interesting. Half of Scotland's health boards have had to shell out more than £154,000 for specialist 'bariatric beds' which can hold people weighing 39st plus. Five of the health boards had to spend thousands hiring beds suitable for people weighing over 50st and NHS Fife had to purchase three beds that could be used by patients weighing up to 78st, which collectively set the trust back £24,000. This was in addition to the two hundred regular beds which can hold people that weigh up to 39st.
Over the course of the last three financial years, NHS Grampian has had to spend £52,751 (excluding VAT) on beds for people weighing up to 70st. This year the NHS Western Isles was forced to spend £19,387 to fund one bed that could support people who weighed 60st. On top of this NHS Forth Valley had to rent four specialist bariatric beds for patients that weigh 39st - costing them £50,376 from April 2008 to March 2010.
NHS Shetland, NHS Highland, NHS Orkney and NHS Tayside also reported spending thousands on purchasing beds for obese patients since January 2008. The majority of health boards said that patients who weighed over 50st would not be charged for the hire of a toughened bed if they were to need one. That must mean patients under 50st will be charged.
But it's not just the beds that need adapting in hospitals, a staggering £6m has had to be spent kitting the hospitals with reinforced trolleys, commodes, zimmer frames, extra wide wheel chairs, stronger operating tables, reinforced walking sticks and toughened sliding sheets used to move obese patients from bed to bed.
It's said Scotland is second in the world's obesity league table, with America in first place. The latest obesity statistics show one in five adults are obese and one in five children are suffering from childhood obesity. Collectively these people cost the NHS an estimated £200m every year.
Back in the 50s and 60s I don't remember obesity being a problem. The only time I was aware of obesity was when I visited a great aunt. She was a delightful woman, always cheery and always welcoming. Also she was a tremendous baker and it was guaranteed I would leave with a bag full of melt-in-the-mouth delicacies - half of which would be consumed on the long walk home. The family spoke in whispers about 'Aunty Betty's illness' and I thought it was something to do with her vast weight. It did indirectly because she was agoraphobic and in later years I learned she hadn't been out of her house for many years. These days her phobia would be recognised and treated but in the 50s it was regarded as 'just one of those things'. Her complete lack of exercise (she lived in a top floor flat) contributed greatly to her weight I'm sure, yet she never complained. I'm sure she didn't have a reinforced bed. A plank of wood would have been her support.