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How To Buy A Hoist And Sling

Posted by Mike Phipps on December 10, 2018

A woman in a sling beside a bed – she is being helped by a nurse

This article was updated on 22/04/2024.

Hoists and slings are designed to reduce the need for manual lifting and manoeuvring of patients or family members in your care. Our handy user guide will help you to buy the right hoist and sling for your needs.

Hoists and slings come in a wide range of different types, each designed to fill a specific need. It’s important that you understand what type of hoist and sling you require before you buy, not only to ensure it is fit for purpose but also to ensure the safety of the user. 

What Is A Hoist And Sling?

Hoists and slings are used to lift patients from one location to another — usually from a bed to a chair or wheelchair and vice versa.  A patient hoist can also be used for helping with bathing.

Care homes and hospitals frequently have a number of different hoists and slings available for use by their patients.

What’s The Difference Between A Hoist And A Sling?

Hoists are mechanical lifting devices that can be used to move or transfer a patient from one place to another.

Slings are the objects which physically hold the person being transferred by the hoist. They are made in different fabrics to provide the correct level of support and comfort to the patient.

Top Tip: Slings are often sold for specific hoists so make sure that you do your homework or speak to your supplier to make sure that the chosen sling is compatible with the hoist being used.

Which Hoist And Sling Are Right For Me?

Hoists are designed to enable those who have difficulty standing or who are unable to move independently to move or transfer from one place to another.

Different patient hoists have different purposes, so it’s important to consider who the hoist is for, what their individual needs are, and who will be operating the hoist in order to make an informed decision about the type of hoist you require.

Main Points To Consider When Buying A Hoist:

  • The physical needs of the patient — are they able to bear some weight, or are they completely immobile?
  • The cognitive needs of the patient — are they able to communicate with you?
  • The weight and physical size of the patient — this will determine the spec of hoist and sling that you require
  • Does the hoist need to be movable, or is it only required in one location, i.e. over the bed/bath? — this may determine whether you need a fixed hoist (i.e. attached to the ceiling) or a mobile/standing hoist that can be moved from one location to another
  • The physical space where the hoist will be used — you need to measure the available space and work out if you have enough room to safely use the hoist
  • The size and weight of the hoist itself — this links to the above consideration of available space

There are several different manufacturers of hoists and slings in the UK, many of which are available via the internet. It's a good idea to look around at the different types of hoists and slings available that meet your needs before making a purchase.

Top Tip: Make sure you speak to a couple of different suppliers and seek independent advice from an organisation such as the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) to ensure that you are making the correct decision about the type of hoist you need.

How To Buy Mobile Hoists And Slings

Mobile hoists are stand-alone pieces of equipment with castors attached to the bottom, designed for manoeuvring and transferring users over small distances, i.e. from a bed to a chair or vice versa.

Mobile hoists offer more flexibility to the user, as they can be moved around the home and used wherever needed, however, they are more demanding for the carer and require training in order to be operated safely. 

How To Buy Standing/Stand Assist Hoists

As the name suggests, standing or stand-assist hoists are designed to help the user stand up on their own. The sling fits around the users’ back and legs and the hoist provides continuous support to lift the user to a standing position.

Depending on the model, some standing/stand assist hoists can be used to assist with walking as well. 

How To Buy Fixed/Ceiling Track Hoists And Slings

A fixed hoist is a permanent installation at home that allows the user to be moved along a track or network of tracks within the home.

Fixed hoists or ceiling track hoists are intended for users that need to move long distances around the home, as opposed to short transfers from a bed to a chair or a chair to a wheelchair.

Fixed hoists are generally more expensive to install. However, they provide a permanent solution for users with very limited/no mobility. They also take up less space and are usually easier to operate.

How To Buy Bathroom Lifts

Bathing can be a difficult task for individuals with mobility issues, especially those without a wet room or the ability to convert their existing bathroom. Bath lifts are an ideal solution — they sit inside the bath and lower the user gently from the top of the bath to the bottom, and then up again once the person has finished bathing.

How To Buy Bedroom Hoists And Ladders

Specially designed to provide a helping hand for users sitting up or getting out of bed, bed hoists and ladders are usually non-mechanical and are ideal for individuals with limited strength, but who still have a fairly good range of movement.

Top Tip: When looking at different hoist companies, be sure to consider the level of service assistance you will get from them once you have purchased. Hoists are mechanical objects and therefore can occasionally require maintenance and servicing.

Equipment Demonstration Centres

As we’ve mentioned a few times throughout this guide, it’s really important to seek independent advice before you buy. It may be in your best interest to physically try out some different hoists and slings to make sure the ones you’re looking at purchasing are fit for purpose.

There are a number of independent equipment demonstration centres around the UK, where you can test out equipment and receive advice from trusted assessors and occupational therapists.

How To Use A Hoist And Sling Correctly

Accidents can happen if a hoist is not used correctly. Each year, a significant number of incidents are reported in which people have been injured whilst being moved using a hoist or while operating one.

Manual Handling At Home

It is imperative that anyone using a hoist to move and transfer a person has undergone correct training on moving and handling, not only to protect the person being moved but also to reduce the risk of personal injury.

Back injuries are the most common injury reported by carers and are usually the result of incorrect lifting technique. The last thing you need when you’re caring for a patient or loved one is to become incapacitated due to injury.

Many local authorities run free manual handling courses for carers. If yours doesn’t, you can apply for a direct payment to cover the cost of attending a course yourself.

Specific Hoist And Sling Training

Most hoist manufacturers/sellers will provide a demonstration of how to safely use their equipment upon delivery/installation. However, it’s important to check this with your supplier at the point of purchase, so that you know what you’re getting!

Some manufacturers provide demonstration videos online, like this one from the Joerns groups demonstrating a bed-to-chair transfer with their Oxford Professional Stature Patient Lift:

Important Points:

  • The hoist must always be positioned on a flat floor — if the floor is uneven, it could cause the hoist to tip during the move
  • Ensure you use the correct, compatible sling with your hoist. If an incompatible sling is used, it could result in an insecure attachment, leading to an unsecured lift
  • Choosing the wrong size of sling can also cause problems. For example, if the sling is too small, it will be uncomfortable for the user, and if it is too large, the person could fall or slide out

We recommend that anyone preparing to operate a hoist and sling read the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guide ‘Getting to grips with hoisting people’. It includes a checklist for using a hoist and sling that you can download and use to ensure the safe operation of a hoist at home.

Hoist And Sling Alternatives

If you decide that perhaps a hoist and sling isn’t quite right for your needs, there are a number of different transfer aids that may be more suitable.

Transfer aids are usually manual bits of kit that can be used by a carer or relative to help transfer or move a patient or loved one more easily.

Some examples of popular transfer aids include transfer boards, glide sheets and turners.

Ability Superstore is proud to be working in partnership with Oxford to bring you the best hoists and slings available. Browse our hoists and slings range here.

Kate Makin, OT

Kate Makin, Ability Superstore's Occupational Therapist

Kate Makin qualified as an occupational therapist (OT) in 2001 with a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy. She is a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT).

As a registered occupational therapist (OT), Kate is a science degree-based, health and social care professional, taking a “whole person” approach to both physical and mental health and wellbeing. This enables individuals, of all ages, to achieve their full potential and lead as independent life as possible.

Click here for Kate’s registration with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Throughout her career, Kate has worked in many different clinical settings, in both the public and private sector. Kate has been running her own independent occupational therapist business since 2009. She is passionate about disability aids and adaptations, with a specialist interest in postural management and seating.

As Ability Superstore’s resident OT, Kate is on hand to offer professional advice and answer any queries.