The area’s ambulance service is spending almost £300,000 on specialist equipment for over-weight patients.
It comes after first aid charity, St John Ambulance, which hires out its bariatric ambulances to the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, revealed that demand has soared from 24 trips a year in 2004 to more than 1,000.
Now the trust has decided to invest £283,950 in five specialist ambulances of its own, along with 16 bariatric stretchers and lifting cushions.
The ambulances cost £16,588 each to purchase and then a further £40,202 has to be spent on each one to convert them with the specialist equipment required.
A Trust spokesman said: “This will improve our service to these patients and sit alongside the availability of three bariatric ambulances provided by St John Ambulance across the region, which ambulance crews can call upon to support them and their patients.
“The 16 new stretchers can be used to carry a bariatric patient on a normal emergency ambulance as our existing fleet is capable of lifting up to 500kg.”
In 2004, St John Ambulance introduced its first bariatric ambulance, which can carry someone weighing up to 70 stone, for a particular patient living in Suffolk. Today, it has a fleet of seven - three of which are on offer around the clock to the local ambulance service.
The money it makes from hiring out the vehicles is ploughed back into its charity work including teaching first aid in schools.
Earlier this year the ambulance trust launch a trial led by a paramedic to provide specialist bariatric expertise and equipment to emergency crews.
“Over eight months, this unit has been called upon 260 times,” said a Trust spokesman. “The Trust is reviewing the success of this programme to decide the best way to improve care and make the best use of resources going forward.”
The Trust’s bariatric ambulances are due to be introduced early next year.