Moving and handling solutions cover a very broad range of products and they are naturally one of the most in-demand segments of the mobility market. Everything from Changing Places to private homes, all the way to wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), need some kind of transfer solution in place to assist moving a person. The home care and care home sectors now accept that the well-being of occupational therapists, carers and relatives of disabled people is paramount.
As such, moving and handling solutions in recent years have been forced to develop with operators in mind as much as the user. These considerations have in fact played a significant part in driving market trends to the extent that ceiling track hoist systems have seen rapidly increasing demand. Although some firms claim this has been at the expense of the floor hoist sector, others insist that all branches of the hoist and sling segments are experiencing growth.
Undeniably, ceiling hoists are becoming more popular as they become smaller, quieter and less obtrusive. With this, the role of the dealer is evolving, according to OpeMed. The supplier has seen more customers purchasing direct from manufacturers and, as such, the dealer has had to evolve into consumables or servicing of the equipment, it says.
It predicts that this will continue as purchasing becomes centralised. “The lower end of the floor hoist market has become incredibly cost-driven and we see more imported low-price hoists, but you really do pay for what you get in terms of stability, safe working load and durability,” says MD Nick Kent. “The higher end of the floor hoist market continues to be an area of growth with powered cradles, higher SWL and specialist hoists leading the march.”
But floor hoists and in particular, portable floor hoists will continue to trump ceiling solutions in terms of their diversity. Ardoo Hoists, like most portable hoist suppliers, markets its products as ideal for trips outside the home. Marketing manager, Niall O’Sullivan, maintains that although ceiling hoists have a place, they do have their limitations. “Ceiling track hoists are fantastic, but the minute you step out the door you’re at the vagaries of the cost of having to adapt the places you’re visiting. With something like our Caresafe 140 hoist the user is in complete control,” he explains.
The Caresafe 140 claims to be the lightest, most compact portable disability hoist on the market and O’Sullivan reveals that Ardoo has received positive feedback from dealers in the four years it has been on the market. Working alongside Osprey, Ardoo has developed a new sit-to-stand sling, which offers posture support and has been met with a good response from OTs, according to O’Sullivan. Rather than standing still, the company continues to develop one of its most successful hoists and has a new version in the pipeline, intended to be unveiled at Naidex 2018.
While the safety of the operator and comfort of the user are primary considerations for Ardoo, it now has a different approach to product development. O’Sullivan explains: “Moving and handling, thankfully, is viewed in a very different light than it was in the past. Before, the client was given a piece of stock kit and told get on with it. Today, the clients’ situation, home, mobility and ability is taken into consideration in order to fine the most appropriate product to suit their particular requirements.”
Dealers will know that this approach is also important when advising customers on moving and handling products. Assessing a customer’s individual needs is paramount in any situation but the WAV sector in particular brings a new element of customisation.
Autochair manufactures moving and handling solutions specially for WAVs and holds a huge stake of the market. Retail sales manager, Steve Tress, reveals that hoists are a particularly important part of the company’s business. “They’re increasing year-on-year so we normally get between 4,500 and 5,000 out of our door each year. In the UK at the minute, we’ve got about 85% to 90% of the market.” Tress explains how moving and handling solutions in the WAV segment are becoming more compact. “Our solutions are becoming lighter and allow you to get more devices into more varied cars. Cars are getting bigger on the outside but smaller on the inside because of all the safety features. It’s another challenge. It’s all about getting more things into smaller spaces. It’s the biggest challenge we have. There are a lot more people having smaller hatchback cars and who are less able rather than disabled.”
Another challenge is helping retailers to get to grips with new products as they are brought to the market thick and fast. O’Sullivan advises: “Dealers should look for products that offer a little more than the normal. Of course, quality of service and back-up is also critical to give both the dealer and the client confidence in the product.”
In response to this challenge, Clos-o-Mat recently published a white paper to advise on moving and handling technology for bathrooms.
The paper covers toilets, grab rails and track hoists and explains the principle behind each aid, and the considerations in its specification, as the user’s needs change over time. It is hoped the paper will offer support to dealers assessing the needs of a client and specifying a product. “Moving and handling people to use the toilet is a bigger issue than many professionals realise,” explains Robin Tuffley, Clos-o-Mat’s marketing manager.
“Health and social care workers have the highest number of handling injuries of all industries in the UK. Yet something as cheap and simple as a grab rail or drop-down support arm can make a world of difference to people’s independence and safety, doing something we all have to do, and on average do so eight times a day.”
Moving and handling solutions, in all their different forms, continue to be a key part of the wider mobility market. The sheer range of them and the rate at which new products are entering the market can sometimes be overwhelming for dealers. But as long as distributors strive to remain familiar with new solutions, the whole segment holds rich potential.