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Reducing Harm from Falls
Falls are recognised as a major cause of disability and the leading cause of
mortality, resulting from injury, in people aged over 75 in the UK.
Falls can also result in a loss of confidence, restricted activity and reduced independence with a reliance on carers and support services.
With an ever aging population in Wales, it’s vital that steps are taken to reduce the risk of falls, provide the best possible treatment and put mechanisms in place to prevent further falls.
That’s why 1000 Lives Plus is working with health boards across Wales to ensure simple measures are in place to reduce the risk of falls in the community and in elderly wards in hospitals.
Fewer falls in hospitals
Considerable work has already taken place in hospitals across Wales to reduce patient falls as part of Transforming Care which aims to improve the patient experience.
Hospitals have reported fewer falls in care of the elderly wards due to hourly checks on patients and ensuring equipment to help mobility is easily available.
Reducing falls in the community is a new area of work in the 1000 Lives Plus programme which aims to reduce harm, waste and variation across Wales.
Although it would be impossible to eradicate the risk of someone falling, by recognising the risk early and carrying out thorough assessments, solutions can be put in place to prevent further falls occurring.
1000 Lives Plus is working with health, social care and the voluntary sector to develop services that will ensure people who fall receive a proper risk assessment and more seamless care.
Organisations are being encouraged to use the ‘care bundle’ approach which is a group of interventions which work better together than separately and that should be used each and every time a patient is seen.
The bundle approach encourages staff to recognise someone has fallen (even if there is no resulting injury), look at why they have fallen, carry out a proper risk assessment, decide on most appropriate treatment and put measures in place to prevent further falls.
By taking this consistent approach it should ensure that wherever an elderly person falls – whether at home or in a residential home – they should receive the same response.
Personal plans to reduce risks
A bespoke plan will then be initiated for each patient, dependant on needs identified as part of the risk assessment.
Common elements could include diagnosis and management of osteoporosis, an eye test, a review of medication and a home hazard assessment.
One of the biggest problems resulting from falls in Wales is the occurrence of hip fractures.
Over 4,200 elderly people suffer hip fractures in Wales each year and five per cent of these have had a previous fracture.
Seven per cent die within a month of the injury and half of all survivors fail to regain their previous level of independence.
In addition to this, the cost of treating hip fractures in Wales is estimated to be just over £12,000 per patient.
By developing well organised services to reduce the risk of falls, recent research has shown the number of falls could drop by between 15 and 30 per cent.
All health boards across Wales have committed to reduce the risk of falls and it is hoped that the work will not only reduce injury in elderly people but help them to stay at home and retain their independence for longer.
Jan Davies is a Director of 1000 Lives Plus
The Professionals Column – Western Mail - Monday, 15 November, 2010
Last updated: 02/12/2010