Submarine hatches may have to be bigger because of obesity, peers told

Escape hatches on submarines may have to be made bigger because of the obesity epidemic spreading to the military, a consultant surgeon has warned.

The problem of overweight service personnel was highlighted at Westminster by Lord McColl of Dulwich.

The Tory peer and former professor of surgery at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Medical School pointed out Britain’s latest fighter planes had had to be fitted with modified ejector seats because pilots were getting heavier.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord McColl said: “By far and away the most serious eating disorder is the obesity epidemic which is now impinging upon the armed forces.

“Ejector seats in fighter planes are having to be modified because of obesity.

“We may have to enlarge the escape hatches of submarines to allow (people to get out).”

Health Minister Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford said: “While I don’t feel able to comment on ejector seats or submarine hatches… I do believe that obesity is a serious issue.”

Earlier, she had been pressed over steps being taken by the Government to ensure that people suffering from an eating disorder were able to access treatment and support.

Military – HMS Revenge – Clyde Submarine Base, Scotland
Archive picture of Soviet general Vladimir Lobov entering a Polaris submarine HMS Revenge, during a visit to Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane, Scotland (Chris Bacon/PA)

Lady Blackwood told peers: “Eating disorders are life-threatening conditions and it is the priority of this government to ensure that everyone with an eating disorder can access quick, specialist help when necessary.”

She pointed to a reduction in waiting times for children’s eating disorder services, while a review was being carried out to look at securing future improvements to adult facilities.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Parminter, who raised the issue, said: “Hospital admissions in the last six years have more than doubled whilst outpatient services for adults are under-resourced and they are unable to support people to be treated in the community.

F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jet
Ejector seats in fighter planes had to be modified, peers heard (Peter Byrne/PA)

“What is the Government intending to do to improve adult eating disorder services to treat these life-threatening severe mental illnesses.”

Lady Blackwood said: “While we have made a lot of progress with children’s eating disorder services we must not forget adult services.”

She highlighted a commitment to pilot four-week waiting times for adult community mental health teams.

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