Obesity could cost Suffolk £65m a year

TREATING obesity could end up costing the NHS in Suffolk £65million a year unless current health trends are reversed, an expert warned last night.

Lizzie Parry

TREATING obesity could end up costing the NHS in Suffolk £65million a year unless current health trends are reversed, an expert warned last night.

It is estimated the current cost of tackling the issue in the county - where a quarter of adults are thought to be obese - is around £10m.

But that could be six times higher by 2050 unless further work is done to improve people's health, according to Peter Bradley, director of public health at NHS Suffolk.

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The news emerged after an EADT investigation revealed hospitals and health trusts in the area have had to spend more than £650,000 on specialist equipment to care for larger patients in the last five years.

That includes operating tables at £44,000 each, modified beds at £7,145 each, hoists at £4,920, and wheelchairs costing £2,841 each - as well as a training mannequin worth £1,600 bought by the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.

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Dr Bradley said society now had to work to change lifestyles or pay for the consequences later.

“If we carry on at the present trajectory, our children will live shorter lives than their parents because of diseases caused by obesity,” he said. “As a society if we do not do something now then we will be paying for it later on quite a large scale.

“The rough social costs for Suffolk if we carry on as we are will be around £380m by 2050.

“The NHS has signed up to provide a big growth in services to manage obesity.

“We expect NHS costs to rise from about £10m in Suffolk to £65m in the costs of treating obesity by 2050 if we carry on the current course.”

Dr Bradley added: “It is important to get the balance right. It is about ensuring people who are not currently obese do not become obese.”

If current trends continue, it is estimated that more than half of all adults in Suffolk will be obese by 2050 - 60% of men, 50% of women and about 25% of children.

A recent report suggested 25% of adults in the county were obese and 18% of 11-year-olds.

It is also thought only about one adult in nine is physically active, while one adult in four eats healthily.

Jan Rowsell, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman, said: “Our priority is patient safety, it is the number one concern and so obviously we have the right equipment to treat people with respect and dignity, they are very important principles to adhere to whatever a person's size.

“We care for a population that is growing older and that has more complex health problems which can affect mobility and increase weight gain.

“We haven't seen a huge increase in obesity but the picture here does reflect the national picture of a growing number of overweight people.

“The items we have spent money on are for people at the highest end of the weight scale. Over the last few years there has been an increasing need for specialist equipment.”

NHS Suffolk has a number of initiatives in place to target various age groups to promote the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

These include a programme to encourage employers to take greater responsibility for the health of their workforce and a scheme focusing on young people which aims to motivate children to take responsibility for their health at a young age with the support of their parents.

Healthy Ambitions, a programme launched recently, is a 20 year vision to make Suffolk the healthiest county in England focusing on children, older people and the workplace.

Health trust Total spent

Ipswich Hospital £9020.00

West Suffolk Hospital £52,613.72

James Paget Hospital £496,211.00

NHS Suffolk £93,746.82

Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT £0.00

East of England Ambulance Service Trust £0.00

Total £651,591.54

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