Community Weighing Scales
A pioneering partnership between BCHC and a leading firm of medical weighing equipment manufacturers is on the path to developing a new set of scales for people in a wheelchair. The project was initiated by community dietitians who routinely have to carry a bulky set of apparatus into the homes of people across Birmingham who are tube-fed.
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The Community Weighing Scales were developed in partnership with Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and a leading firm for medical weighing equipment manufacturers called Marsden. Sue Meredith a clinical lead for Paediatric Dietetics and Enteral Feeding within Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust identified issues with the existing weighing scales that were being used by community dietitians that provide nutritional care and assessments in patients homes. From this she suggested that new weighing scales should be created to help improve patient care and the issues that community dietitians and nurses were having.
“Community dietitians are providing nutritional care and assessment in people’s homes where sometimes space or access may be quite limited.
“Everyone who has had to use the existing equipment says it’s too bulky. Some staff have assessed it is too heavy to carry themselves, therefore patients weren’t getting the level of assessment we would expect as routine. So, having identified the issue, we approached the research and innovation team to ask about developing some smaller and lighter scales.” - Sue Meredith, clinical lead for paediatric dietetics and enteral feeding
How did the Innovation Exchange help?
There were many challenges that were identified by Sue and the dietitian team, when it came to the existing weighing scales that they were using to provide nutritional care and assessments in patients homes. With the existing weighing scales many of the staff became reluctant to use them, due to the sheer size and weight of the scales (around 18kg). Staff had to transport the wheelchair scales to and from their care to the patient’s home which sometimes would mean carrying them up flights of stairs. As the wheelchair scales were heavy and bulky many staff members felt like this would increase the risk of their own injury. In addition, some staff were unable to fit the scales in their cars, and there was a risk of damaging patient’s homes due the length of the beams.
As many staff members could not carry the weighing scales and some staff members were reluctant to sue to the injury it could cause them. This meant that routine nutritional screening was not being completed for nutritional vulnerable patients at their homes. Often staff would have to do home visits in twos to complete nutritional screening as the scales would be too heavy for one person to carry alone. If weighing a patient was not complete it meant that it was difficult to give patients feedback on their progress.
With these issues identified the Trust began working with Marsden, with MidTECH making initial contact with them, MidTECH helped arranging discussions and it was agreed that Marsden and the Trust would work together to create and manufacture a weighing scale for wheelchairs that were easier to transport, lighter, simpler to use and ideal to be used by community dietitians and health nurses. The wheelchair weighing scales that were produced are suitable for almost any wheelchair.
Impact & Outcomes
There are many positive impacts and outcomes that have come from the new Community Weighing Scales. For example:
- The weighing scales now consist of two lightweight beams and an indicator to read the weight of the patient.
- Each beam is connected by a series of hinges and has a built-in handle to make it easy to transport.
- A carry case for the weighing scales also comes with wheels so that the weighing scales are easier to transport.
- The scales come with an internal rechargeable battery.
- The weight of the new scales is 9.8kg which is nearly half the weight of the previous scales.
- Full numeric keypad is included to measure BMI in seconds.
- Easy to use and can be set up within minutes.
- The weighing scales come with gentle incline ramps.
- The weighing scales fit nearly all wheelchairs.
When it comes to weighing a patient, the weighing scales case is placed on the floor and the latch is opened. Once the latch is opened the beams can then be unfolded onto the floor. The scales need to be switched on before the patient is weighted on their wheelchair. The weight of the wheelchair can be removed meaning that only the patients weight it displayed on the indicator. The patient’s height can also be entered meaning that the scales can also calculate the BMI of the patient.
All these new features have made it easier for community nurses and dietitians to weigh patients and tell them about their progression.
This innovation addresses the national clinical priority of creating a weighing scale that allows community nurses and dietitians to weigh patients in a safe way so that they can tell them about their progression.