For people with dementia or confusion bed rails can sometimes increase the risk of harm or serious injury and lead to an increased feeling of isolation as the resident feels “penned in”, often resulting in increased agitation and even aggression.
Bed rails can even result in death from asphyxiation if an individual become trapped in the rails. The Health and Safety Executive reported 10 fatal accidents during the period April 01 – March 05, in which the use of bed rails was implicated.
There have also been cases of serious injuries caused by residents climbing over rails and falling to the floor although Care UK has never experienced one of these it its 59 homes.
All of Care UK’s homes have developed alternatives to bed rails, which include using safety mats next to the beds of residents who are prone to falling out of bed and investing in “high-low beds” which can be raised for residents to get into, and then lowered when residents are in bed so that there is less chance of an injury if they do fall.
New technology also plays a role, with floor pressure alarm systems being used to alert staff when vulnerable residents get out of bed so that assistance can be provided quickly to prevent falls.
Managing Director of Care UK Social Care, Doug Umbers, said “Care UK is firmly committed to improving the quality of services and outcomes for our residents. It might seem a strange idea to reduce the use of what is often seen as a safety measure, but our staff are always ready to think outside the box when it comes to looking after our residents, and we’ve found that reducing the use of bed rails makes for happier residents and reduces the risks of injury that the Health and Safety Executive and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have identified.”
The MHRA has published and distributed advice on the safe use of bed rails and all Care UK homes are using this to inform care provision. This guidance was used to inform the development of Care UK’s Safe Use of Bedrail Policy, which has led to this substantial reduction in the number of bed rails.