Specifying accessible bathing solutions

Gainsborough Specialist Bathing, a market leader in the long term care sector, identifies five key factors architects should consider when specifying assisted baths for healthcare developments.

If you are an architect or specifier involved with the development or refurbishment of care homes, nursing homes or hospitals, there are many factors to consider when specifying a supplier of assisted bathing equipment.

1. Consider the needs of both the bathers and the care providers
As there are various types of baths on the market, it is important to evaluate which product is appropriate for any given installation and whether its design is truly fit for purpose. Powered, variable-height baths need to be exceptionally robust to meet the demands of busy, high-traffic care environments. An assisted bath can be used up to 70-100 times a week in a care home so specifying baths that are durable is critical to maintain operational reliability.

Factors such as the mobility of bathers and carer ergonomics also need to be considered. Some users may only need minimal assistance getting in and out of the bath, whereas other bathers will need more help. If a user has a reduced level of mobility and finds it difficult to get into a bath, then a powered transfer seat can help lift them into the bath safely and efficiently. This eliminates the need for carers to use unnecessary manual handling techniques to move or reposition bathers, thereby avoiding potential back injuries or muscle strains. Certain baths also incorporate variable height adjustment so that carers can fully attend to the bather in the bath without compromising good posture or risking injury.

The configuration of certain assisted baths can also better facilitate wheelchair and hoist access so transferring users in and out of the bath is easier. These types of baths include a hoist aperture so moving and handling equipment, including patient hoists, can be slotted underneath the bath to allow the bather to be positioned closer to the bath during transfer. In bathrooms with restricted space, baths can also be supplied with a detachable transfer chair to reduce the number of transfers and remove any need for additional equipment.

The inclusion of a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) can be a useful safety feature on assisted baths as it keeps vulnerable users safe from potential scalding and injury, and assists care providers to maintain a duty of care. This is particularly relevant in care home and hospital environments where use of TMV3 valves is certainly recommended, if not mandatory.

2. Do the baths need to be WRAS compliant?
It is important to remember that Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) compliance and meeting European safety legislation are essential when selecting any specialist bathing equipment for disabled users. This ensures conformity with Water Supply Regulations preventing waste, misuse, undue consumption or contamination of the water supply, and that they are ‘of an appropriate quality and standard’. Only a bath that is WRAS approved or has WRAS compliant components will meet these legal and regulatory requirements.

3. Choose a specialist with extensive experience in the healthcare sector
Whether you are working within the public or private sector, it is imperative to choose a specialist company, preferably the manufacturer, who can offer a wide variety of products alongside installation expertise and servicing capabilities. An established supplier with nationwide product specialists, installers and service technicians can fully support new build or refurbishment projects from concept to completion, whatever the complexity or geographic location.

4. Ensure technical support is close at hand and available throughout the project
Having access to specialist guidance and support from the outset is a major advantage when specifying assisted baths in healthcare environments. At the initial stage of selection, manufacturers should provide comprehensive product specifications and CAD data so the most suitable baths can be identified quickly and easily. Some may also provide detailed architect and specifier guides that highlight the care options associated with their products. If further in-depth guidance is required or an architect seeks solutions to specific project challenges, then advice from technical support advisors also needs to be readily available.

Once the most appropriate products have been specified, suppliers can provide a complete service that offers full site surveys, project management and bathroom design along with installation, commissioning and user training for care staff. This allows architects to focus on other aspects of a build with peace of mind that the specialist bathing areas will be configured appropriately. Support of this kind will help to enhance efficiency of projects and deliver a bathing solution suited to the needs of the care setting.

5. A 3D bathroom design service can be highly beneficial at planning stages
Design services offers an indispensable solution to assist architects and specifiers during the planning phase. Services can deliver highly accurate CGI room sets showing assisted baths within the built environment, along with detailed scaled plans so installations can be visualised more clearly in 3D. This ensures bathroom layouts are fully optimised in terms of accessibility and user ergonomics, even before construction begins. The available space is also maximised so that wheelchairs and hoists can be easily manoeuvred in and around the bathroom safely and efficiently.