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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The British Geriatrics Society Launches Campaign to Reduce Falls in Elderly

The British Geriatrics Society has recently announced a joint commitment, along with 16 other European organisations, to promote active ageing through the prevention of falls.

This has culminated in a campaign that is being dubbed ‘Stay Strong, Stay Steady’.

Led by the ProFouND network, based at the University of Manchester, the campaign has been timed in order to mesh with the UN’s International Day of Older Persons.

The 17-member action plan, developed in the framework of the three-year EC-funded ProFouND project, aims to:

• Increase the visibility of fall-related injuries amongst older people.

• Share good practice in promoting active lifestyles and falls prevention, and advocate for long term EU, national, regional and local level facilitated community programmes in these areas.

• Enhance the quality of data on fall-related injuries, to make comparison and evaluation easier across different countries and regions.

• Support national member organisations in integrating appropriate education and training modules for professional development and vocational training.

• To help professionals working with older people across health, social care, urban design, public transportation, fitness and other areas to understand and cover falls prevention in their work.

• Expand and further develop Fall Awareness Campaigns at national and European level.

Organisations including the British Geriatrics Society have compiled and underlined important evidence related to falls, which indicates that they should no longer be considered an inevitable part of ageing.

The joint action plan aims to increase healthy life by two years for older people in Europe by 2020, as a result of reducing the number of preventable falls that elderly people experience.

Speaking on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society, Professor Adam Gordon outlined the value of this initiative.

“We now know of a range of interventions proven to reduce the risk of falls, ranging from specific types of exercise, physiotherapy, adaptations to living environments and changes to lifestyle, care practices and medications. The problem is that we don’t always deliver these to people who are most at risk of falls. The ProFouND initiative challenges us as a society to be more ambitious about making sure those at risk of falls get the evidence-based care that they need. This is a very positive step forward,” Gordon commented.

Dr Emma Stanmore, from The University of Manchester, indicated that people from all backgrounds have a role to play in raising awareness of this issue.

“Everyone can help to reduce this preventable and serious problem and the first step is to break the myth that falls are unavoidable. With some simple methods such as helping more older people to undertake regular strength and balance exercises, and safety checking their homes, over a million falls could be prevented each year,” Stanmore stated.

Falls are one of the major health threats in older age, more common than both strokes and heart attacks.

Yet despite the serious consequences involved, the risks of preventable falls are often overlooked.

One-third of people over 65 who live outside of care will fall each year; this increases to 50 per cent above the age of 80.

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