The NHS lacks specialist medical equipment to handle bariatric patients, according to a report published online in a BMA Group journal.
Lack of specially adapted equipment, and staff trained to use it, is a major cause of patient safety incidents involving obese people, the Postgraduate Medical Journal said.
The report analysed patient safety incident data from the National Patient Safety Agency, covering all incident reports relating to, or caused by, obesity over the period of three years from 2005 to 2008.
Of a total of 555 reported incidents, 389 were related to obesity. These incidents included ventilation problems, pressure sores and surgical errors. The consequences were considered significantly harmful in 14% of cases.
Of the incidents involving bariatric patients, 71 related to specialist equipment not being available or normal equipment failing with these patients.
The authors noted: “The majority of safety incidents associated with obesity were related to infrastructure, suggesting there is inadequate provision in place for the care of obese patients. While levels of harm were mostly low, the occurrence of incidents resulting in severe harm or death highlights the specific dangers associated with the care of the obese patient.
“Further planning and development of operation policies is needed to ensure the safe delivery of healthcare to patients in the future.”
Many medical equipment companies now specialise in manufacturing and/or supplying bariatric equipment in the UK.