Derbyshire hospital staff increase awareness of falls and how to prevent them

STAFF at Derby Hospitals have been aiming to increase understanding of falls and how they can be prevented, both in the community and in hospital, as part of charity Age UK’s Falls Awareness Week this year.

At London Road Community Hospital the Falls Service there was organising more than 20 specialist and professional advice stands, including blood pressure and pulse checks, walking stick ferrules (the rubber bit on the bottom), home hazards, a balance challenge, Nintendo Wii demonstrations and exercise and dance groups.

There has also been an information stand near the main entrance of the Royal Derby Hospital,focus on raising awareness among people coming in for inpatient stays and their relatives and friends. There will also be information available for staff, including the updated Trust Falls Risk Assessment Tool.

The topic of this year’s Falls Awareness Week is the link between reduced vision and falls.

Every year, around one in three over-65s living in the community and one in two people aged over 85 will have a fall. The consequences can be devastating, both physically and emotionally. Falls can cause loss of function, mobility, independence, confidence, and in some cases even death.

Lots of work is happening at the Trust with the main aims being to reduce the number of falls within hospital and to raise awareness of risks among patients and their families.

There is a multidisciplinary group that meets on a monthly basis which has worked on revising the Falls Risk Assessment Tool and care plan which now includes improving care following a fall. To support the implementation a training programme about falls prevention for staff has been developed. The group is reviewing the information around patients falling in hospital in an attempt to learn lessons from this valuable information.

There is also a specialist falls clinic running at London Road Community Hospital. The aim of the clinic is to assess patients and help them with the problems they have to enable them to keep as independent as possible. People are referred to this service if they have had one or more falls in the past six months, as well as other factors such as problems with continence, mobility, fear of falling again and confidence issues. It is very common for falls to be for one reason or many reasons. This service aims to assess why patients are falling and/or are unsteady. This is carried out by a team of health professionals, including nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists.

Bridget O’Hagan is head of nursing and quality improvement lead in Medical Services and leading the falls work. She said: “We are working hard in the Trust to provide information for staff and members of the public, and adapt the way we work to best prevent falls. We also encourage older people to find out more about falls prevention and what they can do.

“The aim of our work is to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of falls safety within the Trust, how patient experience and outcomes are improving and reduce the rate of patients harmed by a fall. We’re also increasing the number of staff who received falls management training, and increasing the number of patients with appropriate care and observations after a fall.”

Helena Herklots, services director at Age UK, said: “It is not just falls themselves that have an impact, the fear of falling can have a devastating effect on confidence – limiting daily activities and reducing independence. “There are, however, a number of things that can be done to help prevent falls; simply making sure you have regular eye tests and wearing the right prescription glasses can help with balance and make you feel more confident on your feet.”