Which bed designs and patient characteristics increase bed rail use?

Background: the design and use of bed rails has been contentious since the 1950s with benefits including safety, mobility support and access to bed controls and disadvantages associated with entrapment and restraint. Objective: to explore which bed designs and patient characteristics (mobility, cognitive status and age) influence the likelihood of rails being used on UK medical wards. Method: the use of rails was surveyed overnight at 18 hospitals between July 2010 and February 2011. Results: data were collected on 2,219 beds with 1,799 included (occupied). Eighty-six percent had rails attached; 52% had raised rails (42% had all raised). Adjusted logistic regression results suggest a significantly increased likelihood of rail use for (i) electric profiling beds and ultra low beds; (ii)>80 years; (iii) described as having any level of confusion or mobility impairment. These variables together explained 55% of the variance in rail use. The most frequently mentioned reason for raising rails was 'to prevent falls from the bed' (61%) especially for patients described as confused (75%). Conclusion: there were indications that rails were being used inappropriately (as a restraint) for both confused patients and those needing assistance to mobilise. © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society. All rights reserved.