Inside Britain's FAT ward: Where clinically obese patients weighing as much as 47-stone are treated with reinforced wheelchairs and industrial weighing scales
Based at the Sunderland Royal Hospital, the ward
is at the heart of one of the most overweight parts of the countryMore than 600 weight loss operations performed last yearNew documentary follows plight of 29-year-old Terry Garner, who is 47 stone and housebound
19:13 GMT, 10 December 2012
From super-size doors to reinforced wheelchairs, everything is larger than life.
This is one of the UK’s first dedicated weight loss wards, where last year four surgeons performed more than 600 operations to try and help clinically obese patients.
Based at the Sunderland Royal Hospital, the ward is at the heart of one of the fattest places in the country, where more than 40 per cent of adults are overweight.
One patient on the Weight Loss Ward is 29-year-old Terry Gardner. At 47 stone, he was too big to wash himself at home or even fit through his bathroom door
It's a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures. Patients who come to the ward are generally treated with extreme surgery, such as gastric bands, sleeves and
balloons to reduce stomach size.
obesity and its related illnesses expected to cost the NHS 50 billion
each year by 2050, it's thought many more units will open across the country going forward.
Sunderland's ward has been captured in the new ITV1 documentary Weight Loss Ward, which follows the stories of patients seeking surgery at the hospital and explores possible reasons behind their weight gain, the reality of gastric surgery and what it means for them – plus the challenges faced by the staff who work there.
Terry is one of the largest patients the unit has ever treated. And too heavy for a reinforced ward bed, the hospital has been forced to hire another one at 150 a day
the programme, consultant surgeon Peter Small is brutally honest about
why the patients are there. ‘There is no medical problem that is causing
people to be obese,’ he says.
vast majority of people are obese because their calorie intake over
time has not matched their calorie burn. The usual patient we get has
been trying all the diets under the sun and all the medicines under the
sun and they’ve failed. And they’re just crying for their life back.’
One such person is Terry Gardner. He is so fat that he can’t fit through his own bathroom door – and he’s too big for even a reinforced hospital bed.
The 29-year-old weighs a whopping 47 stone – only ascertained by using industrial strength scales.
Housebound for over a year and with his life at serious risk, during the show the father-of-two is admitted for an indefinite stay to be put on a
controlled diet, with a view to surgery if he can lose some initial
When he married 10 years ago, Terry had a
slimmer figure. Right: Everything on the Weight Loss Ward is big – from
double-sized doors to reinforced wheelchairs
At 47 stone, he is one of the biggest patients the unit has ever treated. And too heavy for even a reinforced bed, the hospital has been forced to hire another one for him at a cost of 150 a day.
He said: ‘At the moment I feel like my weight’s just eating my life. If I don’t do anything now I just feel like I’m not going to be here.’
During the programme consultant surgeon Peter Small explains: ‘We’re bringing him in to get him to confront his addictive behaviour. He’s almost pathologically obese, but why’
And with no sign of any significant weight loss within the first few days, the staff suspect that Terry is buying crisps and fizzy drinks from the hospital trolley. With Terry’s stay in the Weight Loss Ward costing the NHS 250 a day, they are forced to confront him about his commitment.
Deborah Adams (left) was 26 stone and wheelchair-bound until she went to the ward. After a gastric sleeve procedure she can walk again
Until she went to the ward, 47-year-old Deborah Adams, weighed 26 stone. Wheelchair-bound and suffering from raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, her husband Colin had become her carer.
During the course of the documentary she shed four stone to prove her commitment to making permanent changes to her diet.
After undergoing gastric sleeve surgery, which reduced her stomach by 7/8ths, her Debra’s diabetes improved rapidly and she is now able to walk unaided with just a walking stick.
She said: ‘It’s unbelievable. I just never, ever thought I would get down to this weight again.’
Dr Small adds: ‘If we get the right people, 98 per cent who go for surgery will succeed.’ With the high cost of medication for obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Gastric surgery costs about 8,000…If we get them (the patients) off the medicines, we recover the cost of the operation in less than two years.'
‘Weight Loss Ward is on ITV1 on Wednesday at 8pm.