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Physios on the ball over stairs assessment

Physiotherapists who took part in a recent discussion about stairs assessment before discharge from hospital showed a high awareness of risks involved and had risk assessments in place.

That is the view of CSP professional adviser Léonie Dawson following an exploration of the subject on interactiveCSP,  the Society’s networking website. The discussion, held at the request of Frances Healey of the National Patient Safety Executive, showed that most of the 16 physios who responded considered ensuring that two people were present in case of any complications was a priority.  ‘It is our policy to have two people present during the assessment and at least one of those is a qualified physiotherapist,’ said one respondent.  ‘We always have one chair at the top of the stairs and one at the bottom, no matter how good the patient’s mobility and their medical history.’ Risk factors included the types of stairs available, the patient’s state of health, the number of people on the stairs and the number of health professionals available to help. One reported complication involved a physiotherapist who took a patient on the stairs by herself. The patient then suffered a cardiac arrest on a ‘deserted’ hospital staircase. The incident resulted in a new trust-wide policy of having two members of staff for each patient during a stairs assessment. The lack of an emergency pull button on stairs or an easy way of summoning help was also listed as a cause for concern. Standard protocol for stairs assessments included considering the patient’s size, medical condition, mental health and mobility status. Other safety procedures included telling a member of the ward staff which patient was being assessed, on which staircase, and giving an expected return time.  

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