Every firefighter in South Yorkshire is to be trained and equipped to deal with bariatric rescues – where overweight patients have to be lifted – in response to a surge in incidents, including one where five crew members ended up hurt during the same operation.
Fire and rescue services across Yorkshire have seen rises in the number of calls for help with bariatric - or weight surgery patients - patients in recent years, with numbers doubling in four years.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, the body which controls the service, has been told that in one incident, five staff members from the same station reported injuries after being called to one particularly challenging bariatric incident.
Councillors and others who make up authority have already been told the brigade was drawing up a business case which would “aim to improve resources, to include information, instruction, training and supervision during these types of incidents”.
That has now evolved into a policy which will see all firefighters provided with basic training and equipment to deal with bariatric patients, to supplement the specialised staff already trained and equipped for such work, who are based at the Adwick station in Doncaster and Tankersley on the Barnsley and Sheffield border.
The service’s head of emergency response, Tony Carlin, said: “We’re attending more incidents involving bariatric patients, both because of societal changes and the fact that our crews now respond to a wider range of incidents, such as calls to help the ambulance service gain access to certain properties.
“Firefighters at Adwick and Tankersley fire stations are already specially trained to deal with this type of incident, but we are now looking to introduce basic bariatric rescue training and equipment to all firefighters so they can better respond to this type of incident safely and with the dignity of patients in mind.
“This training and equipment will enhance our ability to respond quickly and effectively, not just to known bariatric casualties, but to all circumstances where lifting a casualty may prove difficult.
“Clearly, this is an issue for all fire services, so we are also working with others in the region to consider what other support we might be able to provide to our crews when supporting this type of incident,” he said.
Bariatric rescues often involve helping paramedics to transport a severely obese person to hospital, because they are unwell or unable to move on their own.
Rescuers can use specialist equipment such as slings and hoists and sometimes have to remove furniture, doors or windows in order to free the patient.
In the last 12 months, ending in March, the South Yorkshire service dealt with 77 bariatric rescues, compared with 38 over the same period two years earlier.
Across Yorkshire, there were 252 bariatric rescues in 2016/17, nearly double the number seen in 2012/13.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service had the most call-outs, at 120 last year. In South Yorkshire, one call-out in March 2017 took firefighters more than four hours.
Meanwhile, in West Yorkshire, one incident in July 2016 involved at least 20 firefighters and seven rescue vehicles, the Government statistics show.