LONDON — A morbidly obese man called out firefighters in the United Kingdom to move his television simply because he could not see it, it emerged yesterday.
The revelation is one of around 200 call-outs Scots firefighters say they are having to attend each year from people who are too heavy to lift themselves.
Now, senior officers are to issue new guidelines warning crews to respond only to requests to lift morbidly obese patients in medical emergencies, on the advice of a doctor or paramedic.
They warned that the more frivolous calls, which are costing the force around 80,000 a year, were diverting staff from life-saving emergencies.
It emerged last month that crews in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, had been called four times in one week to move a 41-stone man. On one occasion, ten firefighters had to move Robert Marsden 2ft across his bed.
This prompted a review which revealed Strathclyde Fire and Rescue received a call from an obese man who wanted his television moved.
The man complained he was too heavy to get up and move it himself.
Gerry Campbell, assistant chief fire officer of Dumfries and Galloway Fire and Rescue service, conducted a review of call-outs for the Chief Fire Officers Association Scotland.
He said: ‘We are getting calls from NHS 24 or social services asking us to put a person back into bed. This is an increasing drain and is unnecessary.
‘If a call comes from a GP or from ambulance personnel we will treat that as an emergency and attend.’ Mr Campbell’s review showed that firefighters in Strathclyde attended 18 calls this year to help overweight men and women.
Crews in Tayside were called out 21 times to lift people who had fallen out of bed or were unable to lift themselves from the toilet. Officers were also called to four different addresses twice within 72 hours.
In Dumfries and Galloway, the figure stands at 24, while the other five brigades are receiving similar numbers of call-outs.
Fire crews say they often have to improvise with canvas mats as stretchers and chief fire officers fear they could be sued if a firefighter is injured while lifting an obese person.
More than one in five Scottish adults are classed as obese and by 2010, the figure will be almost one in three.Roddy Robertson, chairman of the Scottish Fire Brigades Union, said: ‘We are not trained in this type of activity and we don’t have the right equipment. We are not going to be a substitute for the NHS.’ David Wyne, chief fire officer of Dumfries and Galloway, said: ‘We need to work out a sensible way of using public resources to deal with a community issue.’ A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said talks were under way at a local level. He added: ‘It is hoped these talks will produce a national agreement between ourselves and the Scottish fire services.’