FINDING A SOLUTION TO PREVENTING FALLS IN HOSPITAL

Gillian Pickersgill

Posted on April by Gillian Pickersgill
Posted in

Falls are leading cause of injury-related hospital admissions in older people.  Up to a third of the ‘young-old’, those who are 65 years and older, will fall every year.  This number increases with age and the associated diseases that arise in later life, for example stroke, heart disease, dementia and arthritis.

Falls and fractures are a costly and often preventable health concern.  As our society ages the number of people affected by broken bones will rise steeply over the coming years.

As health professionals, we understand the devastating effect a fall can have on an individual and their family, leading to longer stays in hospital, loss of confidence, anxiety and social isolation.  This is why Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals is taking steps to improve its prevention and treatment of falls and fractures.  But it’s far from straightforward.  We need to achieve a balance between a person’s dependence and independence.  On the one hand we want our older patients to live satisfying and independent lives, but we also want to protect them from harm. 

We have already done a lot of work to speed up the rate of change within our hospitals in relation to falls prevention.  We are revising our falls policy, and have started using a harm information system that demonstrates the number of days since a fall on each ward.  Dr Vicky Barradell, Consultant Physician in Medicine for Older People has recently been appointed as our Falls Lead.

Having the right atmosphere and environment in hospital is very important.  We are working with the Department of Health to create dementia friendly environments. These environments benefit other patients too, and we have seen patients’ conditions improving sooner and a reduction in time patients are spending in hospital.  We are opening new wards that have national dementia friendly standards to raise the quality of the environment for all patients, and are incorporating dementia friendly features in all relevant wards in our hospitals as part of a ward refurbishment programme. 

Towards the end of last year, we held our first ever Falls event called ‘Standing Together to Prevent Falls’ to raise awareness of falls and their prevention within the Trust.  We looked at every aspect of a patient’s care, for example nursing assessments and management, the role of the doctor, the effect of medications (on the risk of a patient having a fall), and the hospital environment.

We are also exploring new ways to get the best out of the knowledge, experience and understanding we have of our patients to aid their recovery and return to independent living.   Simple measures like checking a patient’s blood pressure when they are lying down instead of standing can reveal much to guide the treatment we offer and reduce falls.

We realise too that we need to better engage our patients, carers and staff in the process of maximising recovery and reducing harm.

This is just the start, by focusing on predicting risk and raising awareness of the impact and importance of falls, we can achieve a culture where falls are preventable in our hospitals.

We are doing our bit to find a solution to preventing falls in hospital and to keep our patients harm free while in our care.  But we also want patients to keep themselves safe whether they are at home or in hospital.  The NHS Choices and Age UK websites contain useful information to prevent falls.  The best New Year’s resolution you can make is to keep yourself safe and harm free in 2014.

NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/falls/Pages/prevention.aspx.

Age UK http://www.ageuk.org.uk/health-wellbeing/keeping-fit/preventing-falls/

Dr Rod Kersh
Consultant in the Care of Older People/Clinical Director of Care of Older People, Rehab, End of Life Care
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals

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