British Geriatrics Society Suggests Inpatient Falls Response Still Sub-Optimal

A unique and innovative report on the extent of inpatient falls has just been revealed at an event in Brighton.

The British Geriatrics Society’s Autumn Conference in the southern seaside town revealed that this low-key issue is actually a significant problem in the health service.

This latest report, entitled The National Audit of Inpatient Falls, at least reveals that many trusts across the NHS have suitable policies in place to offer fall prevention.

However, the report also suggests that there is often little relation between the supposed policies and the actual care that patients receive once admitted to hospital and other healthcare institutions.

And 20 percent of patients in the study were unable to access their call bell, and almost one-third of patients could not safely access their walking aid.

Both of these issues would have a significant impact on the ability of patients to mobilise safely.

The report also discusses some of the positive work that is currently being undertaken by trusts within the NHS to prevent falls in hospitals.

Such measures included assessing medication, providing safe footwear, or checking for any visual impairment which might increase the risk of falling.

However, the British Geriatric Society was also keen to emphasise that not all trusts are assessing falls risk optimally, and thus may be missing opportunities for prevention.

Although falls in hospitals may be considered a relatively trivial issue by many, the reality is that they are in fact the most commonly reported patient safety incident within the NHS.

Previously published research has demonstrated that 700 falls occur daily across hospitals in England; the equivalent of around 250,000 annually.

Despite the fact that this innovative and important report has not been followed up on since, back in 2007 when it was published, it was estimated at that time that this would cast £15 million to NHS trusts in order to rectify.

It is reasonable to assume that this figure has increased significantly since then.

The National Audit of Inpatient Falls covers nearly 5,000 patients aged 65 years or older across 170 hospitals.

It critically encompasses an assessment of the patient’s environment and the falls risk assessments that they received.

Commenting on the importance of this research, and speaking on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society, Professor Adam Gordon had the following to say.

“High quality data about how individual hospitals perform is an essential part of driving up standards in all aspects of clinical care. The National Audit of Inpatient Falls provides exactly this type of information and represents an important resource for trusts striving to improve their practice. 

Many of the interventions described, such as ensuring availability of call buzzers, seem straightforward but can easily slip by the wayside in busy clinical settings. This audit will allow hospitals which are doing less well to reflect on their current practices and policies, and learn from those parts of the country which are doing better.”

Dr Shelagh O’Riordan NAIF Clinical lead, stated:

“This is the first time there has been a national audit of falls prevention in hospitals across England and Wales. Our results show that although there are pockets of really good care, many hospitals are not doing everything they can to prevent falls.

I hope this inaugural audit is the first step to help reduce the number of falls currently happening in hospitals in England and Wales.”

The National Audit of Inpatient Falls is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP).


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