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Elderly people at heightened risk of falls in NHS hospitals

A worrying percentage of elderly people in NHS care are being put at unnecessary risk from falls, a study by the Royal College of Physicians has found.

The first National Audit for Inpatient Falls reported that almost 20% of elderly patients were not able to reach their emergency call button, whilst almost a third could not operate a walking aid safely.

Around 250,000 instances of elderly people falling in NHS care are recorded each year (700 per day), with 3,000 resulting in hip fractures that then required an operation under general anaesthetic. Although one-fifth of falls occur directly from a bed, only around 50% of NHS trusts had carried out safety tests in this area.

Patients have been found to be at a heightened risk of falling when getting out of bed, because blood pressure is reduced as a person stands. And, whilst hospitals have closely monitored patients’ mobility, only 16% of patients had their blood pressure recorded in both a standing and lying position.   

Dr. Shelagh O’Riordan, clinical lead for the national audit, said: “Our results show that, although there are pockets of really good care, many hospitals are not doing everything they can to prevent falls.”

Further research has indicated that effective planning and risk identification can reduce rates of falls in hospitals by up to 30%.

Fiona Lowry, CEO of Good Care Group, commented: “We were concerned by the findings of this audit. Our research shows that care homes also record one in 10 people being admitted to hospital with avoidable conditions including broken bones from falls, which has led us to adopt an innovative new approach to fall prevention. Through our Falls Management Intervention programme, with one-to-one staffing ratio and comprehensive risk assessment, we were able to record a 100% reduction in falls amongst vulnerable clients within 12 months. Our highly-trained live-in carers can give the unique attention your loved ones need to keep them safer and avoid hospital admissions.”