EVERYONE deserves to be cared for by the state and treated with respect, no matter what their personal circumstances are.

However, the cases where firefighters have been sent out to use their specialist rescue skills to assist paramedics because of overweight patients should act as another warning about the growing obesity problem this country is facing.

Some people may look at some of the examples in our story today and laugh at the mental picture of a 35-stone woman having to be removed by burly fireman using straps or another being released from a toilet cubicle. Others may make degrading comments.

Both outlooks are wrong. We do not criticise the fire service’s intervention because in each case those people were in very real need of help.

But it should add to the debate about the nation’s waistline because the emergency services are being left to deal with such matters. For instance, is it right that the fire service is called in and therefore potentially unavailable for other more “traditional” emergencies?

Should the health service not be shouldering the load (no pun intended)?

The ‘obesity timebomb’, as it is sometimes referred to, is real and, as we can see here, is presenting real issues.

These people need society’s care but we cannot just ignore the overall issue, shy away from discussing its ramifications through a misplaced sense of political correctness or just bolt extra duties on to our stretched emergency services.