February 27, 2023 | Terry Smith

Rollboard vs Slide Sheets For Patient Transfers; Forces Compared

In the UK, slide sheets are a standard piece of equipment for moving and handling patients, and they are used for a large number of patient transfers and patient-handling tasks.  Whilst the versatility of slide sheets cannot be denied, a new alternative has been emerging: the Rollboard.

In this article, I’m going to compare the Rollboard against slide sheets, looking particularly at the forces required from caregivers and nurses to carry out a lateral transfer of a patient.

What is a slide sheet?

Blue slide sheet for transferring patients

A slide sheet is a friction-reducing sheet that enables the movement and repositioning of a patient in bed. 

How are slide sheets used?

There are several types of slide sheets, but the two most common are flat sheets and tubular sheets.  Flat sheets are used in a pair; one on top of the other, and a tubular sheet is essentially a flat sheet that is stitched at the ends to form a tube. 

To move a patient with a slide sheet, it first needs to be inserted underneath them. To do this, the patient will need to be rolled onto their side and then rolled back onto the sheet once it has been placed underneath them. Once a patient is on a slide sheet, they can be moved by carers pulling the sheet in the desired direction. Exactly how many carers are needed to do this effectively and safely depends on the weight or size of the patient. 

When removing the sheets, you either roll the patient again to take out the sheet or, wearing slide sheet gloves, reach under the patient and pull the sheet out diagonally.


What is a Rollboard?

Man using a Rollboard transfer device to transfer a patient from a stretcher to a bed

A Rollboard is an alternative way to laterally transfer a patient in a way that is comfortable for the patient and easy for staff to use.

Rollboards consist of a single piece of polyethylene at their core, which provides a solid surface for the patient to glide over. The nylon fabric cover then operates like a tank track: the patient is laid on one side and then transferred over the core by the moving fabric cover.

How are Rollboards used?

In a similar way to slide sheets, the patient will need to be rolled onto their side to allow the rollboard to be placed underneath them. Once the patient is on the rollboard, they can be moved laterally by a carer pushing on the patient’s hip and shoulder. 

Because of the low force required to push the rollboard, fewer carers are needed to move a patient on a rollboard in comparison to slide sheets. We cover this in more detail below.


Which method requires the greatest force to move a patient?

In 2013, an independent study was carried out by Andrea Baptiste, MA (OT), CIE, which aimed to capture the forces required by a caregiver to laterally transfer a patient, and it compares the Rollboard with the following devices:

  • Incontinent pad/bed sheet
  • Incontinence pad over slide board
  • Friction reducing sheet (AKA slide sheet)
  • Slide board
  • Air-assisted lateral transfer device

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be focusing solely on the comparison between the Rollboard and the slide sheet. 

When using the rollboard to laterally transfer a 100kg test dummy, the highest force recorded at the carer’s lower back was 604 Newtons, which ranked the Rollboard in first place out of the 6 devices. The highest force recorded at the carer’s shoulder was 199 Newtons, which again was the best score out of the 6 options. The Rollboard was ranked 1st place overall.

When using the slide sheet to transfer the test dummy, the highest force recorded at the carer’s lower back was 674 Newtons, and at the shoulder; 247 Newtons.  Both of these results ranked poorly when compared to the other options, resulting in the slide sheet being ranked 5th place overall. 

The results of the study are clear, with the Rollboard proving to be a much safer way to laterally transfer a patient when compared to a slide sheet, and ultimately requiring fewer caregivers to use. If you would like a more in-depth read of the study, you can read it here.



I trust this article has given you a helpful outline of how the Rollboard and Slide Sheets compare and has answered some questions you may have had.

If there are other questions you would like to discuss, or if you would like to try the Rollboard in your hospital, feel free to get in touch by calling 01473 741144, or by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. 



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Terry Smith

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