Bariatrics is the field of medicine that looks after obese and overweight patients. Government statistics obtained from the Health Survey for England 2019 show that over three quarters of people aged over 16 in England were either obese or overweight.
The widely accepted definition for being ‘overweight’ is having a Body Mass Index (a calculation using weight and height) of over 25 and for being ‘obese’ is over 30. Patients with a BMI of more than 40 are considered morbidly obese.
Bariatric beds – the basics
As the rates of obesity within populations rise, the demand for bariatric services is rapidly increasing and medical facilities need the appropriate equipment to care for them safely. Overweight and obese patients need to be treated to help them lose weight but may also need treatment for the many health issues associated with obesity. Patients also need equipment to live safely and comfortably in their own homes. The safety, comfort and dignity of the patient are priorities when choosing equipment to meet their needs.
The process of choosing a bariatric bed can be confusing as there are many features to consider. Here’s a summary of the main things that you need to know before making your decision.
What are bariatric beds and what are they used for?
A bariatric bed is a specialised bed that is used in the care of bariatric patients. Their construction and design are tailored to the needs of obese and overweight patients. These beds are often used alongside other bariatric appliances such as bariatric chairs, bariatric walking aids and bariatric ceiling hoist systems.
Their dimensions are larger than regular beds so it is important to make sure that the room where they are going to used is large enough. The same applies to doorways and even corridors if the beds are going to be used for moving bariatric patients around. It is important that carers and employees receive training in how to use the beds correctly.
Bariatric beds – strength and structure
Typically, a hospital bed is approximately 95cm-100cm wide but a bariatric bed would be 110cm and 120cm wide. Some bariatric beds have an adjustable width. These are called convertible beds and can be used for patients of different sizes.
The weight capacity of bariatric beds is greater than regular beds. The frames are made out of stronger materials but this should not compromise the overall look of the bed. Each bed will have a ‘maximum user weight’ and a ‘safe working load’. The ‘maximum user weight’ (which can be up to 300 kg) refers to the weight of the patient using the bed – some patients are obviously heavier than others and will need a bed with a higher capacity. The ‘working load’ refers to the weight of the patient plus any other items, including the mattress, that will be placed on the bed.
Bariatric bed features
The height of a bariatric bed should be fully adjustable so that the patient can safely get on and off. This is usually operated via a remote control and the handset should preferably be lockable to prevent the mechanism from being triggered accidentally.
Each bed should have robust casters for easy manoeuvrability, and these should lock in position when the bed is stationary. In terms of adjustability, the bed should have the typical hospital bed features which may include a one-way tilt function, lower leg raising elevation and an electrically operated back rest.
A selection of side rails may be available in different heights and some beds feature split side rails so that the back rest side rails operate independently from the main bed.
Additional features to look out for
There may be further features to promote the safety and comfort of the bed user. An auto-contour feature allows carers to position the bed user without having to manually move them around. This preserves the dignity of the patient and reduces the risk of manual handling injuries amongst carers. It also prevents the patient from sliding down the bed and makes them more comfortable.
Some bariatric beds also feature an auto-regression function which prevents excess pressure from being exerted on the sacrum region when the bed is in a profiled position.
Summing up how to choose a bariatric bed
Bariatric beds are heavy duty and robust structures but they can also be aesthetically pleasing with a range of head boards and foot boards. They are wider than regular hospital beds and can withstand more weight.
This type of bed includes a number of features to aid the movement of a larger patient, and these are electrically operated via a handset. It is important to make sure that there is sufficient space to accommodate the bariatric bed before it is ordered.
Health Survey for England 2019 https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/2019