Sliding Sheets For Patients: How to Use, Don’ts and UK Regulations.

Moving and positioning patients in healthcare facilities is a daily necessity,  yet poses substantial risks of injury to both caregivers and care recipients. Knowing how to use a sliding sheet is important for better patient care.

Sliding sheet injuries are a common occurrence in healthcare settings. Studies have found that the incidence of sliding sheet injuries can range from 5% to 15% of all patient transfers.

Also, studies estimate up to half of nurses and nursing assistants sustain debilitating back and other musculoskeletal strains from manual handling over their careers.

The rates of falls, friction injuries, and discomfort are also concerning for patients.

Sliding sheets offer an invaluable tool to enhance safety and reduce risks during patient transfers. These slippery fabric devices facilitate lateral repositioning in bed, transfers to trolleys or chairs, and boosting higher up in bed when done properly.

Yet many facilities fail to utilise sliding sheets to their full potential, leading to preventable harm.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide to sliding sheets, including:

  • The risks of manual handling and how sliding sheets help
  • Types of sliding sheets and materials
  • Proper use cases and people transfer techniques
  • Precautions to avoid adverse events
  • Factors in choosing appropriate sliding aids
  • Strategies for successful sliding sheet program implementation
  • Real-world insights from users and lessons learned.
  • UK regulations.

By fully understanding sliding sheets, facilities can unlock their substantial safety and ergonomic benefits to protect patients, caregivers, and organisations.

What are Sliding Sheets?

Sliding sheets also called transfer sheets or glide sheets, are smooth fabric aids that help move patients.

Slide sheets help move people safely.

They are smooth, slippery sheets placed under the person before moving them. They allow the person to slide more easily instead of being lifted.

Because they are low-friction materials, they eliminate friction, allowing patients to be repositioned or transferred with minimal manual effort.

They are designed to eliminate the need for lifting a patient, which can be difficult and dangerous for both the patient and the carer.

Sliding sheets create a smooth and easy transfer for both the patient and the carer.

What are sliding sheets used for?

Typical uses include:

  • Turning or rolling patients in bed.
  • Scooting up higher in bed.
  • Lateral bed-to-bed transfers.
  • Moving patients onto trolleys or chairs.
  • Boosting up to a sitting position in bed.

The ultra-low friction surface facilitates safe, smooth motion for these moves.

How to Use a Sliding Sheet?

  1. Roll person onto their side, put part of sheet under them

    One caregiver rolls the person gently onto their side while another slides half of the slide sheet under them.

    This gets the slide sheet positioned ready for full use.

  2. Roll other way, finish putting sheet in place

    The person is then rolled the other way so the slide sheet can be adjusted and fully smoothed out underneath them, extending past both sides of the body.

  3. Caregivers take positions around person, hold edges of sheet

    Once the slide sheet is positioned, 2 or more caregivers stand on both sides of the bed/stretcher and carefully take hold of the open edges of the sheet at points around the person’s shoulders, hips and legs.

  4. Work together to gently pull and slide person to move them

    On the count of 3, the caregivers coordinate pulling on the slide sheet edges while sliding the person to the new position.

    They move together slowly and gently, avoiding any tugging or friction against the patient’s skin.

Slide sheets reduce friction so the person glides instead of being dragged. This helps avoid harming their skin or caregivers’ backs.

They make it safer to move bariatric (very heavy) patients. Teams can coordinate to share the weight.

Slide sheets mean less lifting, pulling, and straining. They let carers make small sliding motions to reposition someone in bed or onto another surface.

The Dangers of Manual Handling

Moving and positioning patients manually puts strain on healthcare staff. Common handling-related injuries include:

  • Back injuries – Strains, sprains, disc issues from bending and twisting under load
  • Shoulder injuries – Rotator cuff tears from pulling patients up repeatedly
  • Neck injuries – Pinched nerves from hunched postures moving patients
  • Knee and hip injuries – Arthritis and cartilage damage from unnatural positions

These cumulative strains from manual handling lead to high rates of:

  • Early retirement due to disability
  • Lost days from work from handling-related injuries
  • Costly workers compensation claims

Patients also face harm, including:

  • Skin tears, bruising, and friction wounds
  • Dislocated limbs or catheters/tubes from rough handling
  • Falls if dropped during transfers
  • Discomfort and loss of dignity

Proper use of sliding sheets helps mitigate these prevalent risks of patient handling for both caregivers and care recipients.

The Safety Benefits of Sliding Sheets

Sliding sheets provide an invaluable alternative to purely manual moves. Key benefits include:

For caregivers:

  • Minimises back strain by eliminating lifting during lateral transfers.
  • Prevents neck and shoulder injuries from pulling on patients.
  • Reduces awkward postures that can lead to injury.
  • Makes repositioning heavier patients feasible with less staff.

For patients:

  • Smooths the transfer motion reducing discomfort.
  • Low friction material glides easily without dragging skin.
  • Minimises skin shear that can lead to tears or friction sores.
  • Reduces fall risks associated with transfers.

In essence, the ultra-low friction surface means caregivers simply slide patients to the desired position rather than lifting or pulling. This protects staff while maintaining patient comfort and dignity.

Types of Sliding Sheets

Sliding sheets come in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes:


  • Polyethylene plastic – Most common, very low friction, durable
  • Nylon or nylon/paper blends – Disposable, less expensive
  • Microfiber fabric – Softer but higher friction than plastic


  • Rectangular basic sliding sheet
  • Contoured/anatomical curve for easier positioning
  • Cocoon/wrap around full encirclement design


  • Handholds – Straps or handles for better grip
  • Leg straps – For securing legs during lateral bed moves
  • Head support – Prevents neck hyperextension


  • Standard 36” x 72” for regular hospital beds
  • Wider/longer options for bariatric patients
  • Chair transfer size ~36” x 26”

The right combination of material, sizing, shape, and handles depends on the types of transfers performed.

Thin plastic styles work for lateral bed repositioning, while padded nylon cocoon styles allow upright chair transfers.

How big should a slide sheet be?

Choose an appropriate size based on:

  • The surface being transferred to – bed size, chair width.
  • Patient measurements – height and weight.
  • Procedure type – lateral bed move versus seated transfer.

Ideally the sheet extends under the head/shoulders down to knees/feet with extra width.

different types of Slings for moving and handling

Proper Sliding Sheet Uses and Techniques

To fully benefit from sliding sheets, proper techniques are vital for common scenarios:

Boosting up in bed – Replace dragging sheets:

  • Place sheet under sacrum and shoulders
  • Ensure even positioning and alignment
  • Use handles to pull patient up without effort

Lateral bed transfer – Move patient sideways:

  • Roll patient to side over sheet’s edge
  • Carefully pull sheet to shift sideways
  • Avoid shearing by moving straight lateral

Transferring up to sit – Avoid unsafe pulls:

  • Position sheet far under buttocks
  • Raise head of bed if possible
  • Use handles to pull upward without grasping limbs

Chair or trolley transfer – Eliminate lifting:

  • Place sheet on chair then assist patient on top
  • Carefully pull sheet to slide off surface
  • Spot for safety and use good body mechanics

Turning in bed – Minimise strain:

  • Roll patient onto side over sheet edge
  • Grasp handles and glide patient sideways
  • Return to back using the same frictionless motion

For each scenario, the key is letting the sliding sheet do the work while staff provide guidance to ensure proper body alignment. When done right, transfers are nearly effortless.

Precautions When Using Sliding Sheets

While highly beneficial, sliding sheets do require caution and care:

  • Don’t pull sheets when the patient is only partially on them – leads to skin shear
  • Avoid speed or abrupt motions that could startle patients
  • Take care as moisture can reduce effectiveness
  • Fully dry sheets between patients to prevent cross-contamination
  • Check for damage like delamination or tears prior to use
  • Ensure seals on infection control styles are intact before using
  • Carefully follow size and weight limits specified by the manufacturer

With good communication, slow controlled technique, and attentive safety spotting, sliding sheets provide smooth motion. But staff should remain vigilant.

Addressing Common Concerns on use of sliding sheets

How to prevent a patient from sliding in bed?

To avoid downhill sliding in bed:

  • Raise head of bed 30-45 degrees to keep patient from sliding down.
  • Use pillows or wedges to hold position against gravity.
  • Engage bed or chair locks to prevent wheels rolling.
  • Install an alarm sensor pad that goes off if the patient shifts.
  • Evaluate the need for physical restraints if slipping risks injury.

What are some common injuries during moving and handling?

Frequent caregiver injuries include:

  • Back sprains and strains from bending and twisting.
  • Shoulder dislocations and tears from pulling patients.
  • Slipped discs from improper lifting techniques.
  • Knee and hip damage from unnatural postures.

Common patient injuries:

  • Friction wounds and skin tears from dragging across surfaces.
  • Bruises and falls from grip loss during transfers.
  • Tubing dislodgement like catheters if gripped tightly.
  • Discomfort, dignity loss and emotional distress.

Sliding sheets help prevent many of these injuries when used consistently. Training and mentoring is key for proper usage.

Choosing Appropriate Sliding Aids

Several factors affect choosing optimal sliding sheets or transfer aids:

  • Patient weight – Is standard or very heavy size required?
  • Bed type – Do special sizes fit specific frames?
  • Procedure – What works best for each transfer type?
  • Infection prevention – Does disposable or sealed style allow adequate disinfection?
  • Skin health – Will plastic cause excess shear for frail skin?
  • Budget – Are more expensive reusable options worth the investment?
  • Waste reduction – Can recyclable paper-hybrid styles be used?
  • Testing – Have products been trialled by staff to select favourites?

Ideally, facilities provide access to a portfolio of options to suit varied needs. Allowing staff to test and choose their preferences fosters buy-in.

Implementing a Successful Sliding Sheet Programme

Realising the full benefits of sliding aids requires an integrated programme encompassing:

  • Pilot testing different sheet options to determine preferences.
  • Training all staff on proper sliding sheet selection and techniques through demonstrations.
  • Ensuring sliding sheets are readily available wherever transfers occur.
  • Promoting a culture of sliding sheet use as a standard transfer aid through peer coaching.
  • Reviewing usage data and auditing compliance with sliding sheet protocols.
  • Educating patients on how sliding sheets work and the safety benefits.
  • Monitoring and reinforcing consistent sliding sheet use long-term.
  • Budgeting for ongoing consumable supply and laundering costs.

With engagement from leadership, nursing, rehab therapy and floor staff, sliding sheets become second nature.

Paired with proper patient mobility assessment and safe handling principles, sliding aids provide the safest method for necessary repositioning.

UK Regulations on sliding sheets for patient transfer

Regulations regarding the use of sliding sheets may vary depending on the country or region.

In the UK, where you are based, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is a key authority governing care quality and safety.

The use of sliding sheets in healthcare settings typically falls under broader regulations related to patient moving and handling and the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders.

CQC Regulations

The CQC provides guidance on the safe use of moving and handling equipment, including sliding sheets. The CQC recommends that:

  • Sliding sheets should be used in conjunction with a risk assessment. This will help to identify any potential risks associated with using a sliding sheet and ensure that the patient is transferred safely.
  • Sliding sheets should be used by trained personnel. Care providers should be properly trained in lifting techniques and how to use sliding sheets safely.
  • Sliding sheets should be inspected regularly for damage. Damaged sliding sheets should not be used.
  • Sliding sheets should be stored properly when not in use. This will help to prevent them from becoming damaged or contaminated.

Additional Considerations and Guidelines

In addition to CQC regulations, here are some general considerations and guidelines related to the use of sliding sheets:

  • Manual Handling Regulations: In the UK, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) provide a framework for managing the risks associated with manual handling activities, including the use of equipment like sliding sheets. This includes the assessment of risks, provision of training, and implementation of control measures.
  • Risk Assessment: Employers are generally required to conduct a risk assessment of manual handling tasks, including the use of sliding sheets. This assessment should identify potential risks to the health and safety of workers and patients and determine appropriate control measures.
  • Training and Competency: Staff involved in using sliding sheets should receive proper training in their correct usage. This includes understanding different transfer techniques, knowing when and how to use specific types of sliding sheets, and being aware of safety precautions.
  • Equipment Maintenance: Employers are responsible for ensuring that sliding sheets and related equipment are properly maintained. Regular checks should be conducted to identify and address any issues, and damaged or worn sheets should be replaced promptly.
  • Infection Control: In healthcare settings, where infection control is crucial, ensure that sliding sheets comply with relevant guidelines. Disposable options may be preferred in certain situations to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Patient Assessment: Before using sliding sheets, healthcare professionals should conduct a patient assessment to determine the most appropriate and safe transfer method. This assessment should consider the patient’s condition, weight, and any other relevant factors.


It’s important to note that specific guidance may also be provided by professional bodies, such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) or the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Always refer to the latest guidelines and regulations, and consider seeking advice from relevant healthcare authorities or professional organisations.

Key Sliding Sheet Takeaways

In summary, fully utilising sliding sheets reduces the substantial risks associated with manual patient handling in an incredibly simple yet effective manner.

Key takeaways include:

  • Manual moves lead to high caregiver injury rates and patient discomfort.
  • Sliding sheets’ low friction enables smooth, nearly effortless transfers.
  • They protect staff from cumulative strains and trauma.
  • Patients benefit through reduced fall risks and shear injuries.
  • Proper usage techniques are vital for maximising benefits.
  • Various materials and styles suit different needs and budgets.
  • An integrated sliding sheet programme enhances compliance and culture.
  • Healthcare facilities experienced clear improvements from sliding aids.

Sliding sheets exemplify how a basic mobility aid, when adopted comprehensively, can make patient handling tangibly safer for all involved.

Unlocking their benefits requires securing stakeholder buy-in and ingraining use through training and culture.

But the sizable reductions in injuries, costs and liabilities make this investment in sliding sheet programmes well worthwhile.

Any healthcare organisation regularly performing patient transfers should be leveraging these invaluable tools that elegantly reduce risks and strain from essential but precarious care tasks.

Top Sliding Sheets FAQs

What is a substitute for a slide sheet?

What is a substitute for a slide sheet?

If sliding sheets are unavailable, possible substitutes include using multiple draw sheets on top of each other or applying talcum powder between layers.

However, these increase friction and shear potential. Proper sliding aids remain the recommended transfer method.

Are slide sheets slippery?

Are slide sheets slippery?

The underside is very slippery to facilitate smooth sliding during transfers. But top surfaces are often textured to provide grip.

Straps, handles and adaptive features also improve hold during use. Caregivers should follow safe practices to maintain stability.

Is using sliding sheets safe?

Is using sliding sheets safe?

When used properly, sliding sheets greatly increase patient safety:

  • Minimise fall risks during transfers
  • Avoid pulling catheters or tubes during turns
  • Reduce skin tears, friction injuries and bruising
  • Enable safer handling of larger patients

However, care must be taken to follow protocols and avoid sudden motions.

Can sliding sheets be washed?

Can sliding sheets be washed?

Reusable sliding sheets can sustain hundreds of washes. Follow manufacturer guidelines on washing, drying and approved cleaners. Replace when becoming frayed or worn. Disposable styles are single-use.

What are the best ways to care for sliding sheets?

  • Check for damage like tears before each use
  • Avoid harsh chemicals that could affect the fabric
  • Follow laundry guidelines for temperatures and cycles
  • Allow to fully air dry before storage to prevent mould
  • Use infection control styles for contagious patients
  • Discard any sliding sheets looking worn or frayed

Proper care maximizes the lifespan and functionality of reusable sliding aids.

What is a flat slide sheet?

What is a flat slide sheet?

A basic flat slide sheet is a thin piece of low-friction material like plastic or nylon used to transfer patients. It can be placed under a patient to enable sliding them across a bed or other surface with reduced manual effort.

How do you use slide sheets?

Process to use slide sheets?

  1. Position sheet under the patient’s upper back/shoulders down to knees
  2. Ensure even alignment with adequate overlap on both sides
  3. Grip handles and smoothly slide patient in desired direction
  4. Avoid too much slack or tension when pulling sheet through motion
  5. Use slow, controlled movements – no sudden pulling
How do you put a slide sheet on a bed?

Process to put a slide sheet on a bed

  1. Lower bed height for easy access
  2. Roll patient to each side, placing sheet under body
  3. Position sheet evenly from shoulders down past hips
  4. Ensure fabric covers mattress fully under patient
  5. Avoid wrinkles or uneven sections
  6. Return patient to back centered on sheet
What are the steps to use a sliding sheet?

What are the steps to use a sliding sheet?

  1. Explain the procedure to patient and gain consent
  2. Prepare needed supplies – sliding sheet, mobility aids
  3. Lower bed height and ensure locks are applied
  4. Position sliding sheet evenly under patient
  5. Use good body mechanics and communicate actions
  6. Grasp handles and smoothly slide patient to new position
  7. Monitor for safety and comfort throughout
  8. Record transfer details per protocol
How do you turn a patient in bed alone?

How do you turn a patient in bed alone?

  1. Lower bed to safely access patient
  2. Explain you will turn them using a special sheet
  3. Position slide sheet under the body
  4. Grasp handles and have patient bend knees
  5. Ask patient to turn their head as you slowly glide them onto their side
  6. Return to back using the same gentle gliding method
  7. Keep aligned to prevent skin shear
  8. Provide support throughout procedure

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