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Nearly £500,000 spent by Norfolk's NHS on equipment for obese patients

PUBLISHED: 16:44 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:44 04 July 2019

File photo dated of an obese person. Photo: Clara Molden/PA Wire

File photo dated of an obese person. Photo: Clara Molden/PA Wire

Healthcare trusts spent nearly half a million pounds on equipment specifically for obese patients, it can be revealed.

A Cancer Research UK poster on a bus shelter. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA WireA Cancer Research UK poster on a bus shelter. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, come as it was found obesity now causes more cases of some cancers than smoking.

The data showed that between 2013/14 and 2018/19 healthcare trusts in Norfolk spent £542,018.43 on bariatric equipment, such as reinforced beds, wider commodes, and even larger mortuary slabs.

And at many trusts, spending has increased in recent years.

One in four people in Norfolk are obese (23.8pc), and between 2013/14 and 2016/17 there was an 80pc increase in hospital admissions where obesity was the main or secondary diagnosis, forcing the NHS to make special provisions.

The highest spending was at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, where £332,742.31 was spent in the time period covered.

The hospital has three mortuary bariatric fridges and four super bariatric friends. The items purchased included walking frames, recliner chairs, and blood pressure cuffs.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), where £126,302.93 was spent, items included bed pans for those weighing up to 65 stone and XL size straps and hoists.

Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) and Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) spent similar amounts, at £40,877.17 and £42,096.02 respectively.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn said it did not record the information centrally.

The rise in spending comes as new data from Cancer Research UK showed that people while 14.3pc of adults in Norfolk smoke, 61pc are overweight or obese.

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While smoking is still the nation's biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity, the charity's analysis reveals that being overweight or obese trumps smoking as the leading cause of four types of cancer - bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "As smoking rates fall and obesity rates rise, we can clearly see the impact on a national health crisis when the government puts policies in place - and when it puts its head in the sand."

The issue of obesity has also been raised in the Tory leadership contest, as candidate Boris Johnson vowed to scrap the sugar tax introduced by Theresa May's government.

Speaking during a leadership campaign visit, he said he wanted to see proof that taxes "actually stop people from being so fat".

The move has been supported by Norfolk MP and supporter of Mr Johnson Liz Truss, who represents South West Norfolk.

She tweeted: "Taxes on treats hits those on lowest incomes. We should be #freetochoose."

Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock, also backing Mr Johnson, is set to publish a green paper recommending extending the tax to milkshakes, but said he was open to a review.

Ms Mitchell praised the success of so-called "sin taxes" including the one of sugar introduced in April last year.

She said: "They have been highly effective in bringing down smoking rates to record lows, including within deprived communities. Physical activity is one way to lose weight but the government also has a big role to play if we are to significantly reduce obesity levels."

While Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said the organisation was "seriously disappointed" by the announcement and praised moves to tackle childhood obesity.

"One of the successes of the last Conservative government was the introduction of the sugar levy for soft drinks. The evidence shows that the sugar levy has worked," she said.

"We should be building on the success of the sugar levy, not turning back the clock on the progress that has been made so far."

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