THE number of obese people in Oxfordshire needing specialist transport to get to hospital is set to rocket by 10 times in less than 10 years.

The number of overweight people needing extra help to get to hospital stood at 91 in 2010/11.

But health bosses predict that by 2019, 900 people a year will need dedicated ambulances to ferry them to hospital.

As reported in the Oxford Mail, free patient transport for the least infirm, such as certain cancer patients, is set to be axed to focus on those “in most need” like obese people and wheelchair users.

National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry said more needs to be done more to tackle the “obesity epidemic”.

He said: “The Government has failed, it has pushed onto Oxfordshire the responsibility of cleaning up a mess they couldn’t clean up in 20 years.”

Health chiefs are facing a yearly bill of more than £100,000 to transport obese people. They have warned 75 patients a month will need specialist ambulances and equipment in five years’ time – one of the reasons for planned cuts to hospital transport.

Each severely obese patient costs an average of £129 to transport so if 75 were seen a month as expected by 2019, this would result in an annual bill of £116,100.

Just five people needed help in April 2010 – the year the county got its first specialist ambulance – but this had risen to 44 in March.

Regular ambulances take patients up to 20 stone but specialist bariatric ambulances can take those up to 55 stone.

Dr Rebecca Cooper, consultant in public health at Oxfordshire County Council, responsible for promoting healthy lifestyles, said: “The cost of obesity to society in general is well documented and this is why it is a priority for public health teams up and down the country.

“In particular, links between obesity and other health problems, both physical and mental, result in greater demand for other health services.”

An Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) report said: “The projected growth in demand for more complex patient transport journeys underlines OCCG’s position that there is an increase in demand that cannot be sustained under the current or future budgets without a review.”

In February, we revealed that 60.7 per cent of 875 adults surveyed in Oxfordshire by Sport England were classed as overweight or obese. And figures from weighing children in primary schools found about 12 per cent are overweight.

Last month, we reported firefighters have assisted paramedics in getting medical treatment to more than 40 overweight patients in five years.

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