obesity epidemic in Britain
NHS spends £7m to cater for obese people Reuters

The NHS has spent at least £7 million over five years to cater for obese people. The money was used to adapt services and equipment such as bigger beds, wheelchairs and even larger mortuary slabs. The majority of foundation trusts have doubled their spending on obesity treatments in the last two years, according to data obtained by Sky News through Freedom of Information requests.

Ambulance services across Britain have also been revamped with bariatric equipment, including double-width trolley stretchers which can accommodate patients weighing up to 50 stone (317kg).

Dr Ahmed Helmy, a consultant physician, told Sky: "I think the challenge is to try to accommodate those obese patients without having the stigma."

The news comes as health campaigners and the Government clashed over the introduction of a sugar tax to help curb obesity. In a recent report, Public Health England identified that a levy on sugar could save the NHS £500 million a year, but Prime Minister David Cameron has dismissed the report's findings. The government's plans for tackling childhood obesity will be released in January, according to the BBC.

The UK has the third highest levels of obese and overweight people in western Europe, behind Iceland and Malta, according to the Global Burden of Disease study, published in the Lancet medical journal. Around 67% of men and 57% of women in Britain are either obese or overweight, and more than a quarter of children are also overweight.

The epidemic has become so prevalent that it is reflected in most public provisions in both social care and in the private sector. This is clearly evident in the funeral business, where there has been an increase in demand for larger coffins as the crisis has developed, according to James Meynell from FTP Eco Coffins in Worcestershire.

"There's very much a trend for an increase in the width needed," he told Sky News. "We started off mostly just selling standard 20 inches wide... but over the last few years we've had to go to 24 inches and sometimes even wider."