How hospitals can adapt for bariatric patients

The need for bariatric equipment and provisions in hospitals all over the UK is growing year on year. The NHS reports that the prevalence of obesity increased from 15% in 1993 to 24% in 2014. And the rate or morbid obesity (which often leads to bariatric surgery) also increased threefold during 2014. With that in mind, it’s important that hospitals adapt to be able to facilitate plus-sized patients; whether it’s the design of the building itself or the bariatric equipment they are investing in.

What does bariatric mean? Who counts as bariatric?

The term bariatric derives from the Greek word ‘baros’, meaning weight. In healthcare, bariatric refers to the treatment of people who are overweight. There’s no official weight limit to be described as bariatric or plus size, but any bariatric equipment needs to be able to hold weight anywhere between 270kg all the way up to 500kg.

How to layout a bariatric room

If you’re designing a bariatric care facility or hospital ward and are needing to find out how to make it more accessible for plus-sized patients, then there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, everything needs to be bigger. The room, the doorways, and even the corridor need to be bigger to allow the patient to move or be transferred with enough space on either side for caregivers to assist.

When it comes to doorways for bariatric patients, we always recommend putting in a double-door; the patient can them move through the middle of the doors again with space either side for carers to help.

Considering the actual structure of the building, you need to ensure that the floor is strong enough to hold the weight of the patient and the equipment with ease. We also highly recommend that you make sure the equipment fits into the room before hiring or purchasing it!

Blueprints for a room that will fit bariatric equipment.
It’s always important to make sure that any bariatric equipment can fit into the room. The room will typically be bigger to accommodate this.

Bariatric ceiling hoist systems

Hospitals may also want to take extra steps to ensure that their ceiling track hoist systems are capable of lifting plus size users. This will usually mean adjusting the fixtures and the weight limit of the track to ensure that the system is a reliable piece of bariatric equipment.

One thing we always recommend when specifying overhead hoist systems for bariatric users is future-proofed tracking. This means that we will install tracking that can take up to 500kg of weight, even if the hoist unit only has a limit of 260kg (conveniently, we also supply hoist units with a 500kg weight limit). This gives hospitals the freedom to switch up to a bigger hoist unit for a plus size patient, without having to switch the entire hoist system. For more information on overhead hoist layouts, take a look at this post.

Any decent overhead hoist system should also be structurally sound to lift bariatric weights. For us, this means installing the track fixings closer together for extra sturdiness. You can find out more about that in this blog post.

Bariatric hospital beds

Bariatric equipment (including hospital beds) often contain a few different features to facilitate the user’s varying needs. Firstly, plus-sized beds are usually bigger to accommodate the patient’s weight. Whereas a typical hospital bed may be around 95cm-100cm, a bariatric bed can be made to widths of 110cm and 120cm. This gives a bit of flexibility for the person’s physical size.

It’s also worth noting that when looking at bariatric hospital beds, there’s a difference between the safe working load and the maximum user weight. The safe working load is often higher as it accounts for the mattress, and any other equipment used on the bed along with the patient. The maximum user weight refers only to the patient’s weight – so please don’t put a 250kg patient on a bed with a safe working load of 250kg because they’ll be too heavy!

The frame of the bed itself will often be made from stronger components to facilitate the person’s weight, and any decent bariatric bed will include split siderails. This allows the siderails to move independently with the head-end and foot-end of the bed so that when the user is sat up, the siderail will still be alongside them offering support and security.

Split siderails on bariatric equipment gives an extra layer of security when inclined in bed.
The split siderails on our Interlude bariatric equipment will move with the bed as it profiles.

Bariatric medical beds often tend to be lower in height due to the fact that plus-sized patients usually have extra flesh on the underside of their thighs which requires a lower mattress platform for comfort. This also makes it easier for the individual to climb on to and off of the bed and it’s closer to the floor. Similarly, the low height is helpful for transfers by hoisting. Most bariatric hospital beds will have electric height adjustment to help with this.

Whether it’s by a mobile hoist or double gantry system, the lower platform gives carers more room to play with above the patient to ensure that they are being hoisted correctly. Additionally, bariatric beds should have a good amount of space beneath them to allow for mobile hoists to slot into position.

The positioning of the bed is also key with bariatric equipment. Bariatric hospital beds should include double auto-regression; this means that when the backrest and knee brake are inclined, the middle section of the bed widens to facilitate the patient’s shift in weight distribution. This feature is available on our Interlude hospital beds, which are also available in bariatric size.

A plus-sized hospital bed should also be fitted with larger castors and an easy release brake in case of emergencies. This will make it easier for caregivers to simply wheel the patient out of the room to a safe place. It’s also advised to include a built-in weigh scale in the bed itself, which will monitor the individual’s weight with ease and dignity.

The Somlent Air Egg Plus Mattress and Pump System
Our Somlent Air Egg Plus system can provide bariatric patients with excellent pressure redistribution and comfort.

Bariatric mattresses are also available, but please make sure that they comply with mattress regulations regarding the height, width, and safe working load. The user will either need a foam mattress, or a full air system if they are more at risk (which is often the case with plus size patients). We recommend the Air Egg Plus system, which allows you remove air cells at the heel end of the bed for additional comfort whilst providing pressure redistribution.