August 3, 2023 | Terry Smith

Top 7 risks associated with moving and handling bariatric patients in hospital

In hospitals, providing care for patients with bariatric needs presents unique challenges that demand specialized attention.

Bariatric patients require extra care during moving and handling procedures due to their size and complex medical needs. Improper handling can lead to serious injuries for both patients and healthcare staff.

In this article, we highlight the top 7 risks associated with moving and handling bariatric patients in hospitals and look at potential solutions to minimise these risks. 

7 risks associated with moving and handling bariatric patients

Increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries

One of the main risks for healthcare staff when handling bariatric patients is the increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

The physical strain of lifting, transferring, or repositioning patients significantly increases when dealing with heavier individuals. Improper techniques or inadequate equipment can lead to back injuries, strains, and sprains for hospital staff.

Higher risk of injurious patient falls

Bariatric patients often have reduced mobility and balance issues, making them more susceptible to falls during transfers or while moving.

Falling can often result in more severe injuries for bariatric patients, ranging from fractures to head trauma. Proper risk assessments and using appropriate mobility aids are essential to mitigate these incidents.

Increased likelihood of pressure ulcers

The increased weight of bariatric patients places more pressure on specific areas of their bodies, leading to a higher risk of pressure ulcers, or bedsores. These wounds can be painful, slow to heal, and can lead to potentially life-threatening complications if not adequately managed.

As such, bariatric patients often require more regular repositioning and specialist equipment such as pressure-relieving mattresses, and skin inspections are vital to help identify and prevent skin breakdowns.

Staff fatigue and burnout

Regularly handling bariatric patients can be physically and emotionally draining for healthcare staff.

The increased demand for staff to provide proper care, often under time constraints, can lead to fatigue and burnout, compromising patient safety and quality of care.

Lack of specialist bariatric equipment

Standard hospital equipment may not be designed to accommodate the size and weight of bariatric patients. This can include beds and stretchers, wheelchairs, commodes, and lifting devices.

A lack of specialist equipment designed for bariatric use can increase the risk of accidents and injury during patient transfers and compromises the effectiveness of care.

Limited training and education

Insufficient training on proper techniques and best practices for moving and handling bariatric patients is a significant risk factor.

Comprehensive training programs should be implemented to educate healthcare staff about safe patient handling, using specialized equipment, and understanding the unique needs of bariatric patients.

Staff shortages

Inadequate staffing levels can also exacerbate the risks associated with moving and handling bariatric patients.

When there are not enough staff members available, staff may resort to unsafe practices or attempt transfers without proper assistance, increasing the likelihood of accidents and injuries occurring. 



Moving and handling bariatric patients in hospitals require a proactive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of both patients and healthcare staff.

By recognizing and addressing the risks outlined in this blog, hospitals can ensure the highest quality of care while minimizing the risks of injury. Prioritizing patient safety, staff well-being, and continuous improvement will lead to safer and more efficient practices when caring for bariatric patients.



Related articles

How Much Do Patient-Handling Related Injuries Cost The NHS?

What causes musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) in hospitals? – 6 of the most common causes

5 Tips For Avoiding Injury When Moving And Handling Patients



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