5 critical elements to consider when specifying new assisted baths

5 critical elements you should consider when specifying new power-assisted baths for healthcare developments.

1. Choose an assisted bathing supplier that is a proven specialist.

There are many suppliers of adjustable, accessible baths for care homes, nursing homes and acute hospital wards. When specifying assistive baths, it is important to choose a specialist, preferably the manufacturer, who can offer a range of products alongside extensive installation experience. A strong Research and Development ethos in specialist bathing is also essential to ensure products are contemporary in looks whilst providing safety, reliability and ergonomic design.

Another advantage to consider when selecting an assisted bath provider is where its products are manufactured. Choosing baths from a UK-based manufacturer can provide several benefits including faster delivery, higher quality and easier after sales support. Technical guidance and design in terms of bathroom layout and installation is commonly more efficient if contractors are not communicating overseas. Regional support across the UK can be further enhanced by certain suppliers that have a flexible ethos i.e.. they can adapt their delivery and installation schedules to meet changeable project demands.

A UK supplier may also be able to provide a more robust network of product specialists, installers and service engineers so accessible bathroom conversions and new builds can be supported from concept to completion. A cohesive team that can provide a project management package including site surveys, recommendations regarding electrical and plumbing pre-requisites, spatial planning and bath installation is a significant advantage. This support maximises efficiency during builds, and after installation, the need for comprehensive lifetime servicing and warranty programmes becomes critical to ensure ongoing product performance.

2. Ensure selected specialist baths are suitable for intended users and care settings

There are many types of powered accessible bath on the market designed for care homes, acute hospital wards and residential settings. Right at the start of the specification process, it is worthwhile spending time considering which baths are appropriate for specific healthcare settings. It is important to seek specialist advice regarding the intended use of a bath so that it meets the needs of users and carers. Factors such as bather mobility, wheelchair and hoist access and carer ergonomics all need to be assessed.

Bath functionality and features need to relate to the care and powered assistance required by intended bathers. For example certain clients may only need minimal help getting in and out of the bath, whereas users residing in nursing care, may require both a transfer seat and height adjustment. If a resident needs to be moved in a ceiling track hoist or wheelchair to the bathroom, a powered bath transfer seat simplifies the process of positioning them in the bath – safely and with dignity.  Leading bath suppliers should provide architect and specifiers guides or online ‘product selectors’ that categorise the capabilities of their models so certain criteria can be met.

Baths available today can also include powered height adjustment so carers can work safely without having to manually lower or lift disabled bathers. Products can incorporate both hi-lo adjustment and transfer seats if full bather assistance is required. Additional features may include thermostatically controlled water, Bluetooth enabled sound systems, Chromotherapy lighting and Air spa.

The inclusion of a Thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) can be a very useful feature within assisted baths as it keeps vulnerable users safe from potential scalding. Its continual blending of hot and cold water limits the maximum outlet temperature whilst allowing water to be stored at a high temperature for bacterial protection. In addition to this important practicality, many leading baths can be specified with additional therapeutic features so the bathing experience is more relaxing and comfortable for disabled users. Sound and colour are proven mediums to stimulate individuals with limited senses whereas massaging water can assist with joint and muscular issues.

3. Select an assisted bath provider that can also provide results-focused project management, design support and installation

Several leading companies in the healthcare sector can provide specification, design and installation support to complement their range of adjustable baths. This holistic solution is a major advantage when aiming to tightly control budgets and meet challenging deadlines. A project management service for bath installation can include a variety of activities such as onsite surveys by specialist technicians through to spatial planning by experienced designers. These professionals can collate, assess and recommend the optimum layout through the provision of 3D scaled plans, CAD drawings and detailed documentations regarding pre-installation requirements. These requirements could include information regarding strengthening of the floor under the bath and the positioning of extra water inlets, electrical sockets and waste pipes. Technical guidance regarding electrical and plumbing requirements can be readily available at the beginning of a build and throughout the project so all on-site professionals are well informed.

Selecting a supplier that only uses in-house installers can also provide a major benefit to contractors. Outsourced installers can sometimes have less familiarity with certain products as they do specialise in one brand. This can have an impact on final installation accuracy, speed and ultimate reliability of the bath and fittings. Whereas if a bath provider is chosen that can provide a complete team of professionals that can deliver the whole support package, contractor and specifier time is saved and costs are controlled.

4. Identify the supplier that provides the best 3D bathroom design service

Having the opportunity to tap into proven design expertise can be a real advantage. This allows project managers to focus on other aspects of a build and rest assured the final care environment will be appropriately configured.

3D computer generated images (CGIs) of a bathroom can really benefit with visualising the final installation. Certain care bath specialists can provide CGIs during the planning stage of a project so that client expectations are managed and the level of accessibility can be assessed. These accurate renderings of the room can depict the position of the bath in-situ – ensuring practical use and safety is fully considered before installation. Further technical calculations and CAD files can accompany these CGIs suitable for integration into architectural drawings.

The positioning of a specialist bath has to be carefully considered in terms of accessibility and its relation to other sanitary ware in the bathroom. The layout of a specialised bathroom must provide adequate floor space for wheelchair and hoist access so that bathers and carers can move around safely. Moving and handling risks are then minimised, especially if disabled individuals can be transferred from assistive-device-to-bath in the shortest possible distance. If an experienced supplier is selected, they can also offer guidance on conformity with the latest Health & Safety directives – critical for all healthcare developments.

5. Only engage with a supplier that offers life-time after-care of their specialist baths

It is imperative to check that selected baths are protected post-commissioning with comprehensive warranties and extensive servicing and maintenance agreements. These ensure the installed baths continue to operate efficiently and safely. Leading suppliers can offer a variety of flexible service contracts along with factory-trained engineers so client and healthcare provider satisfaction is maintained. Product training of care staff is also important after hand-over to ensure operational safety is maximised for both carers and bathers.