Medhealth Review

The Advancements in Safe Patient Handling: A Transformative Journey

Safe patient handling has emerged as a critical aspect of modern healthcare, transforming the way healthcare professionals provide care and ensuring the well-being of both patients and caregivers. Over the years, this practice has seen significant progress, driven by advances in technology, research, and a growing awareness of the importance of safe patient handling. In this article, we will explore the remarkable progress in safe patient handling and its impact on the healthcare industry.

The Evolution of Safe Patient Handling

The evolution of safe patient handling can be attributed to several key factors:

Technology Integration: One of the most significant advancements in safe patient handling is the integration of technology into patient care. Modern equipment such as electric lift systems, motorized beds, and friction reducing transfer aids have greatly reduced the physical strain on healthcare workers, making patient handling safer and more efficient. Horcher Medical Systems have led the way in this field with many worldwide patents to their namei ii.

Evidence-Based Practices: Extensive research has contributed to the development of evidence-based guidelines and best practices for patient handling. In the UK, Loughborough University, Northumbria University and agencies such as the Derbyshire Interagency Group (DIAG) and the National Back Exchange (NBE)iii

as well as a number of high-profile individuals and companies have

pioneered the way to ensure a wealth of information is available on the subject. Body mechanics, risk assessment, and injury prevention strategies have all been given their fair share of attention by those wishing to conduct research.

Ceiling mounted hoist which

can transfer from room to room eliminating the need for a carer to lift their patient

Education and Training: Healthcare professionals receive comprehensive training in safe patient handling techniques as well as with the use of equipment. This training not only ensures the well-being of patients but also reduces the risk of workplace injuries among healthcare workers. In the UK, no- one is allowed to move a patient without first having undergone training appropriate to their area in safe moving and handling of people. There are courses that range from a half day for a quick annual refresher to a PhD in ergonomics and human factorsiv for those with a greater desire to learn more. To become a trainer the NBE guidance recommends several minimum standardsv.

Legislation and Standards: The UK Government was among the first to introduce legislation that directly impacted on safe patient handling with the implementation of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations which came into force January 1st 1993vi. Other countries around the world

followed suit. Regulatory bodies have recognized the importance of safe patient handling and have been commissioned to ensure compliance. This has played a crucial role in driving the adoption of safe patient handling practices across the healthcare sectors.

The Distribution of Safe Patient Handling

European, Asian, North American and Southern Pacific countries have all taken the idea of safe patient handling to heart. To this end, private companies such as Impact Medical Solutions (IMS) have held discussions with several African governments to promote the concept in their hospitals. Northwest Province, a centre of healthcare excellence in South Africa, working alongside IMS, are in the process of adopting the initiative as part of their memorial to the late National Deputy Health Minister Dr. Molefi Sefularovii. At the point of his untimely death in 2010, Dr. Sefularo had just started Africa’s’ first safe patient handling project. This, coupled with his reputation of “lifting the people up”, means that the recent rejuvenation of this programme is well-suited to honour his name.

The Benefits of Safe Patient Handling

The progress in safe patient handling has had far-reaching benefits, both for patients and healthcare providers. Some of the key advantages include:

Enhanced Patient Safety: Safe patient handling techniques reduce the risks associated with catheterisation of a non-ambulant person as well as reducing the risk of falls, skin tears, dislocations and subluxations as well as other injuries during transfers and mobility activities. This, in turn, enhances the overall safety and quality of care provided to patients.

Reduced Workplace Injuries: Healthcare workers often face the risk of musculoskeletal injuries due to repetitive patient handling tasks. The implementation of safe patient handling practices has significantly reduced these injuries, leading to better job satisfaction and lower healthcare costs.

Improved Efficiency: Modern patient handling equipment and techniques have streamlined the process of transferring and repositioning patients. This increased efficiency allows healthcare providers to allocate more time to patient care and less on physical labour.

Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with legislation and standards related to safe patient handling not only ensures the well-being of patients and staff but also protects healthcare institutions from legal liabilities and financial penalties. It also proves that governments are taking their health and safety legislation seriously.

Challenges and Future Developments

Despite the remarkable progress in safe patient handling, challenges remain. Many healthcare facilities still struggle with outdated equipment, inadequate training, and resistance to change. However, the future looks promising, with ongoing efforts to address these challenges and further advance safe patient handling.

Some of the expected future developments include:

Continued Technological Innovation: The development of more advanced patient handling equipment and assistive devices is likely to continue, making the transfer and mobility of patients even safer and more efficient.

Research and Education: Ongoing research and educational initiatives will further refine best practices and ensure that healthcare professionals stay tuned into the latest developments in this field.

Global Standardisation: The adoption of standardised safe patient handling principles, protocols and guidelines will help ensure consistent, high-quality care across different healthcare settings and regions. This should be encouraged by all governments who wish to protect the health and safety of their citizens.


The progress in safe patient handling has revolutionized the healthcare industry, benefiting both patients and healthcare professionals. Through the integration of technology, evidence-based practices, education, and legislation, safe patient handling has become an integral part of healthcare delivery. As the field continues to evolve, it promises to provide even safer and more efficient patient care, making it a cornerstone of modern healthcare. Healthcare providers, institutions, and policymakers realise that they must continue to prioritise and invest in the advancement of safe patient handling to ensure a healthier, safer future for all.

By Victor Makgwana CEO Impact Group and Gavin Wright Safe Patient Handling Consultant


i European Patent Register

ii United States Patent & Trademark Office Do a basic search using the terms Stefan AND Horcher

iii National Back Exchange

iv Masters Degree in Ergonomics & Human Factors at Loughborough University

v Core Skills Training Framework

CSTF-Eng-Subject-Guide-v1.1.pdf (

vi Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

vii Dr Molefi Sefularo

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