SOUTHAMPTON has the highest rate of obesity-related hospital admissions in the country, new figures show.

The figures released by NHS Digital have been described as "deeply concerning" by Southampton MPs, who say the rate of obesity in the city is "creating issues in health and social care".

They added that the rise in obesity is due to "poor access to decent fresh food to lack of exercise and activities".

NHS Digital data reveals that in Southampton, there were 7,875 hospital admissions where obesity was a primary or secondary factor in 2019-20.

That was 3,757 in every 100,000 residents – the highest rate in the South East, and up from the previous year's figure of 2,506. Three years earlier, the rate was 2,683.

Women accounted for nearly two-thirds of obesity-related hospital cases in Southampton in 2019-20, the figures reveal.

Nationally, there were just over 1 million admissions due to obesity in 2019-20 – up 17% from 2018-19, and equating to rate of 1,869 in every 100,000 people.

MP for Southampton Itchen, Royston Smith, said that the number of obesity-related hospital admissions in Southampton is "deeply concerning".

"The figures sadly show that obesity is becoming more widespread across the city and creating issues in our health and social care system," he added.

"Obesity is strongly associated with many severe health problems and is one of the greatest long-term health challenges the NHS faces.

"The Government's Obesity Strategy seeks to address this issue head on and will empower those to make healthier choices without reducing the freedom of choice in what we eat."

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, said that the figures were "very worrying", adding that the reason for obesity range from "poor access to decent fresh food to lack of exercise and activities".

He said: "One thing I was pleased to see earlier in the year was Labour's plans for an improved sports centre in the city and in the light of these figures I hope that is something the new Conservative administration keep to."

The Daily Echo contacted Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care at Southampton City Council, Ivan White, for a comment but he did not respond.