Rarely have I been asked a question about manual handling more regularly than “how do I improve care budget constraints?” or “Is double handed care always necessary?”

So, with that in mind, we set out to answer this question; hopefully, giving you a new outlook on single-handed care.

Firstly, we looked into some notably interesting research, on the subject of safe moving and handling. Undertaken by the University of Salford, the remit of the article was to examine the widely received understanding that two people are needed in a situation where someone requires manual handling, i.e. double handed care.

Safe manual handling is one of those subjects that comes up a lot for Medaco; we get emails from care homes who are struggling to move their patients from bed to chair or loo unaided, quite frequently contrasting this with care workers refusing to help with transfers unless there are two of them.

When coupled with declining budgets and the decrease in carers available; this can put constraints on the performance of care homes. So, how we change the myth about requiring two people for every transfer?

Take a look at University of Salford report here.

Poor quality training in moving and handling:

From the other side of the fence, people coming into employment in the care industry are sometimes dismayed at the sketchy nature of the moving and handling training they are provided with.

Compulsory training, but no quality standards specified:

Manual handling training is compulsory for care workers, but the content and quality of the training is left to the professional judgement of the organisation involved, leading to some very dubious courses, which may provide incorrect or misleading information, or just not enough time and practical sessions to enable the trainees to feel confident in their abilities.

Given all the noise around “Health and Safety”, we should perhaps not be surprised that many care providers simply introduce a blanket “no lifting” rule, effectively depriving thousands of people of support; rather than undertaking a proper risk assessment.

Origin of the double-handed care myth?

So to this new research, which identifies a possible source for the “two people for every lift” misconception, in the National Minimum Standards Regulations for Domiciliary Care 2003, which state:

“12.8 Two people fully trained in current safe handling techniques and the equipment to be used are always involved in the provision of care when the need is identified from the manual handling risk assessment.”

Note the final third of that statement, when the need is identified from the manual handling risk assessment.

What managers should take from this is that a moving and handling risk assessment is necessary, not that two carers should be involved in every lift.

Transfer aids often designed for safe single-handed use

Another factor which is very often not taken into account, is the many developments in transfer aids in recent years: frequently, when I receive information about a new hoist or stand aid, somewhere in the description will be words to the effect that it has been designed for safe use by a single carer. As is so often the case, practice doesn’t always keep up with technology, and what might have been prudent with previous generations of products is just carried over without question.

Today we have perhaps reached some sort of tipping point, where finances are so tightly squeezed, and demands on care providers so great, that attention really has to be given to any sort of waste: and insisting on double handed care in all circumstances, whether necessary or not, means that costs of care are higher than they need to be; many people may miss out on necessary support altogether; coordinating care visits is harder; and those on the receiving end have twice as many people invading their space as is really necessary.

Take a look at our single-handed care equipment here.

Research shows the benefits of assessing whether or not two carers are needed

The research from the University of Salford makes a strong financial case for challenging the notion of double handed care for every lift.

Checklist for safe handling practice

The following checklist represents safe handling practice and is designed to remind those transferring people with hoists points to consider. The list does not cover every individual circumstance and should be used as a guide. Get your checklist here.

I would love to know what you think on this subject, whether you are a professional involved in moving and handling; an equipment supplier; a family carer; or client receiving care services. You can post your comments at the bottom of this page, underneath the social media sharing buttons!