HOSPITAL staff are being given special training to help them get to grips with obese patients.

As the population gets bigger and heavier, health care workers are having to manage the difficult proposition of lifting people of ever greater weight, and getting them safely to hospital in a dignified manner.

An exercise, which brought together staff from Basildon and Thurrock Hsopital, as well as community nurses, the ambulance service and the Health and Safety Executive, covered some of the likely scenarios medics may face.

Andy Halls, 38, from Leigh, who is 15 stone, played the role of a patient.

The staff then acted out scenarios, including removing Mr Halls from the bathroom, toilet and other tight corners of a typical two-storey house, taking him downstairs and putting him into a waiting ambulance.

Hospital manual handling advisor Liz Leigh said: "The focal point of the exercise was to ensure we can treat all patients with dignity and safety.

"By taking a pro-active approach and pooling our expertise, we can be well prepared and know what equipment to use when faced with a real life scenario."

She added: "Obesity is a huge international problem and the number of larger patients is growing all the time, so it is vital we work closely together to ensure they are all treated respectfully."

A report on the exercise will be presented at this week's National Back Exchange conference.