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Calls for multi-disciplinary approach to mobility in hospital

Encouraging mobilisation among hospital in-patients may be a relatively low cost and effective way of reducing hospitals stays and improving patient wellbeing, according to a new study.


It has long been suggested that prolonged bed rest reduces the ability to walk independently for between 16% and 65% of older people, speeding up the loss of physical function and increasing deconditioning. This research offers evidence in support of that. Encouraging patient mobility is something that healthcare professionals from different disciplines can be involved with. 


NIHR (the National Institute for Health Research) has reviewed 13 trials from the UK, Europe and Australia, involving 2,703 adults of average age 75, admitted to hospital for medical reasons (excluding patients admitted for surgery or with mental health problems). It found significant improvements in walking speed (a measure of fitness) among those who took part in programmes to encourage mobilisation compared with patients who did not. Length of stay was on average two days shorter.


Any programmed intervention which aimed to encourage mobilisation in hospital, by any healthcare professional, was eligible for inclusion. Interventions included moving from the bed to sitting, standing, walking and exercises.


Commenting on the findings, Alison Cowley, Senior Physiotherapist and NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellow, Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust says: "This review confirms the importance of maintaining patients' mobility and function during acute hospital admissions through targeted programmes of mobilisation and exercise. Mobility is frequently viewed as the domain of physiotherapists but promoting independence in the hospital should be a multi-disciplinary endeavour and embedded into ward culture and practice." 


Simple initiatives that can involve many healthcare professionals include  #EndPJparalysis, which is gaining momentum across the UK and internationally. This encourages patients to get dressed and be as active as possible while in hospital.