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Home › News › UK Hospitals inadequately prepared to treat morbidly obese patients, warns a new paper out today

UK Hospitals inadequately prepared to treat morbidly obese patients, warns a new paper out today

02 November 2012

Many hospitals in the UK are inadequately equipped to provide optimal care for morbidly obese patients a new paper out today reveals.

The study, featured in the Royal College of Surgeons Bulletin, highlights that patients can suffer a lack of dignity when basic facilities such as adequately sized gowns are unavailable.  It goes on to outline that staff can sustain injuries when attempting to mobilise patients with extreme obesity without the appropriate equipment.

The aim of the paper was to audit the current provision of care for patients with obesity in NHS hospitals and to assess what implications this may have for obese patients and the healthcare professionals who care for them.  It reveals that despite the fact that obesity rates continue to rise in the UK - only 39% of theatre departments surveyed had a specific policy for the care of bariatric patients.

A survey was sent to every hospital accepting acute surgical admissions in the South West region. Staff  were surveyed regarding the availability of many commonly used pieces of equipment suitable for patients weighing 25 stones and above. No single hospital appeared to have all of the equipment - and even when equipment was available, the nurses were not aware of it.

The paper outlines that specialist equipment and manual handling policies for the safe management of the anaesthetised obese patient are of particular importance in operating theatres. However only 50% of theatre managers who took part in the study were made aware of a patient weighing over 25 stones at the time of listing for surgery, 39% were aware at pre-assessment and 11% were often not aware until the day of surgery. In the South West of England only 17% of radiology departments reported adequately sized CT and MRI scanners for patients over 35 stones.

Ms Sally Norton, Consultant Bariatric Surgeon and Upper GI Surgeon, and lead author of the report said: “The current challenges in managing the increasing population of morbidly obese patients must be addressed. Failure to provide adequate equipment and appropriate management of obese patients could result in their safety being compromised and injury to both patients and staff”.

The study highlights that existence of a bariatric policy, does not necessarily equate to it being implemented and that equipment such as heavy duty wheelchairs, operating tables and commodes designed for the safe and dignified care of the morbidly obese patient, are not always readily available where needed.

It points to data and examples from the US, where hospitals have considered using veterinary and zoological scanners, with the resultant loss of dignity for patients and warns that policies for the care of bariatric patients must be implemented in hospitals across the UK to avoid similar cases happening here.

Read the paper online from the Bulletin

Notes to Editor:

1.    The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808

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