Demand for specially-adapted ambulances for overweight patients has soared more than 40 times in ten years in one area because of a massive rise in obesity in the young.
St John Ambulance, who hire out the adapted vehicles to the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, said they were supplied 24 times in 2004.
But shocking figures show that they were requested more than a 1,000 times in 2013 - with the biggest increase in young obese people.
The special ambulances have stretchers capable of lifting obese patients weighing up to 70 stone and extra-large wheelchairs which are 38ins wide.
St John Ambulance said normal ambulances can only cater for patients under 30 stone (190kg).
Keith Hotchkiss, St John area manager, said: “What we are seeing is a higher proportion of younger obese patients.”
The East of England ambulance service, which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, is now looking to roll out its own bariatric vehicles for heavy patients.
It also plans to introduce larger wheelchairs and stretchers for regular ambulances.
An ambulance Trust spokesman said: “The Trust is currently investing in more bariatric service provision.
“Five bariatric patient transport service ambulances are being introduced in the new year along with 16 bariatric stretchers and lifting cushions.
“This will improve our service to these patients and sit alongside the availability of three bariatric ambulances provided by St John Ambulance across the region which ambulance crews can call upon to support them and their patient.
“The 16 new stretchers can be used to carry a bariatric patient on a normal emergency ambulance as our existing fleet is capable of lifting up to 500kg.
This year, the Trust set up a trial led by a paramedic who is available to crews to provide specialist expertise and equipment.
“Over eight months, this unit has been called upon 260 times.
“The Trust is reviewing the success of this programme to decide the best way to improve care and make the best use of resources going forward.”