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Woman 'fat-shamed' by consultant at Maidstone Hospital

“I get very emotional now, even 18 months down the line - the slightest thing makes me burst into tears.”

Those are the words of Debra - she has asked us not to use her surname - who considers herself the victim of ‘fat-shaming.’

She is one of three people in as many years to lodge a complaint with Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust after a consultant told her: “The only surgery I would book for you is bariatric (weight reduction) surgery or you’ll end up housebound and lifted out the window at the end.”

Dr Julian Spinks spoke to KMTV about the number of overweight adults in the county

Debra from Mangravet in Maidstone, said: “I had a letter from the complaint investigation team saying he never meant to cause me any upset but ‘I needed to be told’ - that is not an apology.”

The incident arose from a consultation Debra had at Maidstone Hospital in December 2017.

She had been suffering hip pain and had gone to hear the results of a scan and to learn whether she needed hip replacement surgery.

She claimed: “As soon as I walked in the room, he said: ‘I don’t know why you bother coming to me, you’re too fat to operate on.’

“I was completely taken aback - and after he told me I’d be lifted out the window at the end, I left the consultation room sobbing.

“It completely ruined our Christmas.

"I became quite ill with the upset of it all, my immune system suffered and I began to suffer all sorts of other complaints, including losing several teeth.”

Maidstone Hospital. Picture by: Matthew Walker
Maidstone Hospital. Picture by: Matthew Walker

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust denies the consultant made that particular remark.

At the time Debra had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 52.9 and weighed 23 stone.

She was told initially she would need to get her BMI down to 50 before the NHS would consider an operation. Later that target was reduced to 40 - in line with NHS guidelines.

She said: “It shattered my confidence. I used to do a lot of things, but it became so that I didn’t want to go out on my own.”

Debra, 54, had to take time off from her job as a respite carer for Crossroads Care, where she has worked for more than five years.

Her sympathetic employer paid for her to have a six-week counselling course, which helped enough to get her back to work.

She said: “I’m determined to work as I don’t want to end up that housebound person he predicted.”

However, her initial hip pain has not been cured and she now also has a problem with her knee because her balance has been thrown out of kilter.

She needs a crutch to walk and takes around 10 different painkillers a day.

Debra says she was fat-shamed at the hospital
Debra says she was fat-shamed at the hospital

The NHS gave her an eight-week course of physiotherapy and she also pays for private osteopathy sessions every three weeks. She said: “I just feel scarred by what the consultant said without even knowing me.

“He just assumed I eat too much, but actually I eat quite healthily. I live off salads and vegetables. I’ve always been big. It’s something in my genes.”

Debra, who has lost four stone since the incident, said: “I feel like my life is on hold.

"I’d be nervous of the operation, but I want to have it because I feel it’s the only was back to a normal life. I hate myself at the moment, because if I go out with friends, I hobble along and feel I’m just holding people back.

“But if they do ever allow me the operation, I don’t want to go to that surgeon. I never want to see him again.”

A Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust spokesman said: “We carefully investigated the concern raised by Debra and we apologised for any distress caused to her during her clinical consultation.

"We actively encourage all our staff to talk to patients in a compassionate and supportive way.

"We will be very happy to reconsider Debra for surgery with one of our specialists if she meets our surgical criteria.”

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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