THE fire service is called out more than once a month on average to help move obese people in Dorset and Wiltshire.

Over the past five years, Dorset and Wiltshire fire service has spent thousands of pounds on 82 bariatric assistance call-outs.

Unions say that the problem is putting more pressure on emergency services with the number of cases doubling over the same period.

Despite representing a small portion of its 16,000 non-fire incidents, the majority took more than one hour to resolve while 14 moves required more than four hours.

Specialist lifting equipment is often required with each incident costing about £400 on average.

In 2012/13, the fire service attended bariatric assistance cases 11 times with the figure more than doubling to 27 in 2016/17.

Across England, fire and rescue services attended 851 incidents in 2016-17, a 98 per cent increase on five years previously.

Unison’s national ambulance officer, Alan Lofthouse, said: “Obesity can be a real issue for ambulance staff trying to help critically ill patients.

“Ambulance equipment has a safe working load, and pushing the limit puts patients and staff at risk.

“In an emergency a paramedic has to make a judgment call on how best to help an obese patient, and in some instances this means calling for assistance from other services.”

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, which aims to raise awareness of obesity in the country, said: “The leap in the frequency that fire crews have to winch very obese people from their homes is truly shocking.”