The MHRA has this month published a draft guidance document on the safe use of bed rails, which it is asking for views on in a consultation that closes on 13 September.
“Use of bed rails can carry serious risks for users if they are prescribed, installed or maintained improperly”
The agency said the aim of the document was to provide advice to all users, carers and staff with “responsibility for the provision, prescription, use, maintenance and fitting of bed rails”.
It cited examples as care home managers and staff, carers in the community and care-at-home staff, hospice managers, and staff and nurses in hospitals and the community.
The document identifies areas for safe practices, including risk management and training.
It also identifies areas of good practice, such as checking and ensuring that a bed rail is necessary and the need for good communication between bed occupant and carers or staff.
Other areas covered include looking at the compatibility of the rail and bed, mattress and occupant, correct fitting and positioning and risk assessment before the provision and use of bed grab handles.
“The MHRA continues to receive adverse incident reports where users have been seriously injured”
Launching the document, it noted that the use of bed rails could “carry serious risks for users if they are prescribed, installed or maintained improperly”.
The MHRA added that it continued to receive adverse incident reports where users have been seriously injured or have died as a result of the improper use of bed rails.
“The most serious of these have led to injury and death by asphyxiation after entrapment of the head or neck,” it stated.
“Severe limb damage has also been reported in cases where someone has become entangled in bed rails,” noted the document.
It highlighted that most incidents occurred in community care settings, particularly in residential and nursing homes.
“These could have been prevented if adequate risk assessments and appropriate risk management had been carried out,” it said.
The draft document being consulted on follows on from previously MHRA guidance on the safe use of bed rails.
The revised version has been updated to “improve layout and to reflect changes in devices and practices”, said the agency.
For example, it uses information from recently reported “adverse incidents and near-misses”.
It also now includes information on BS EN 50637:2017, a standard for medical beds for children published since the previous guidance, noted the MHRA.
The consultation process would help the MHRA understand if the proposed document met the needs of the intended audience, said the agency.
It said it would use the responses to modify the guidance, if necessary, and a final version would be published later in 2019.
More information on the guidance and taking part in the consultation on the MHRA website.