COUNTY firefighters have assisted paramedics in getting medical treatment to more than 40 overweight patients over a five-year period.

Crews have been dispatched to help lift obese people and to offer their specialist rescue advice and gear.

The data, released by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service under the Freedom of Information Act, shows there were 45 incidents between January 2009 and March this year.

South Central Ambulance Service spokesman Matt George said firefighters would be called to help the service treat bariatric patients.

He said: “These are patients who might be considered to be suffering from some form of obesity, but are requiring urgent medical attention and treatment.

“Sometimes this can be to assist us with physical access in order to treat the patient, and sometimes this can be to help us manoeuvre and transfer the patient to a waiting vehicle.”

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service could not give an estimate of how much responding to the calls cost but assistant chief fire officer Simon Furlong said it was not about providing extra muscle.

He said: “We do not attend for additional personnel.

“We will only go where our specialist equipment or specialist knowledge will assist the case. We are purely there to give our expertise as specialist rescue.”

He added: “The fire service’s ethos is it is there to assist people in distress or at risk.

“We will only go if there is a life-threatening emergency, the patient is seriously ill or if they have suffered serious trauma.”

In 2010, the Oxford Mail reported rising levels of obesity had forced health chiefs to convert an ambulance to carry overweight patients.

Prof David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the fire service figures showed more needed to be done to meet the needs of the changing population.

He said: “We need bigger hospital beds and we need bigger stretchers.

“There are so many reasons why people become obese – some of which are out of their control.

“The number of morbidly obese is people is really going up.

“We need to be able to deal with them and show respect for them, and treat them like any other person.”


Some of the fire service calls to help paramedics with bariatric patients:

  • September 2009: A 35-stone woman was removed from a Bampton property using straps and left with the ambulance service.
  • August 2010: A man with a broken leg was removed from a house in Witney and left with paramedics.
  • January 2011: A 35-stone woman, who had died, was removed from her Abingdon home and left with undertakers.
  • January 2012: A 25-stone man was lifted from a floor in Oxford.
  • March 2013: Front door removed to rescue woman from first floor bedroom in Eynsham home.
  • March 2014: Woman was released from a ground floor toilet cubicle in Oxford.

Oxfordshire Fire Service Bariatric call-outs 2009-2013.xls