20 June 2011

A group of health organisations have joined together in a project to help prevent people falling in hospital. Accidental falls are the most commonly reported patient safety incidents in NHS hospitals, with over 280,000 falls reported each year. They can lead to injury, including fractures and head injuries, impaired confidence, anxiety and poor rehabilitation, and are a frequent factor in patients needing long-term care.

The project ‘FallSafe’ is part of the Health Foundation’s Closing the Gap through Clinical Communities programme, and is delivered by the Royal College of Physicians’ Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, in partnership with the National Patient Safety Agency, South Central SHA, the Royal College of Nursing, and Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA).

The project will help hospital wards to carefully assess patients’ risk of falling, and introduce simple, but effective and evidence-based measures to prevent falls in future. The lead nurse in each participating ward is using a practical ‘care bundle’, which means going through a checklist of actions with each patient admitted to the ward. They include:

  • A history of previous falls and of fear of falling must be taken at the time of admission
  • A cognitive assessment for everyone over 70
  • Avoid new prescriptions of night sedation
  • Medication review for older and more vulnerable patients to make sure they’re not taking medication that will make them more liable to fall
  • Wear the appropriate footwear

The project, which began earlier this year, is already showing benefits, as patients feel more safe and reassured as a result of the assessments and extra care taken to prevent them falling.  All wards involved have bought equipment to implement ‘FallSafe’ including gripper socks for patients, hand rails, and ultra low beds. 

Dr Adam Darowski, the programme leader and consultant geriatrician at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, said:

‘Everyone expects a hospital to be a safe place to be looked after when you are ill, and we must make every effort to ensure that is the case. We now know that there are effective things that we can do to reduce the chances of patients falling while they are in hospital, and we are looking at ways of ensuring that these things are done routinely.’

Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of Action against Medical Accidents, said:

‘Action against Medical Accidents (‘AvMA’ – the patient safety charity) is proud to be supporting this project. Patient falls result in a vast amount of avoidable harm and suffering. Many falls can be avoided by implementing good practice consistently across the NHS. We need to dispel the myth that nothing can be done. That is what people used to say about hospital acquired infections, but now big advances are being made.’

Sarah Mussett, Head of Patient Safety Development at South Central Strategic Health Authority, said:

‘A fall while in hospital will add to the patient’s anxiety, can lead to an increased length of stay and a higher chance of the patient requiring long term care.  Elderly people are already at increased risk of falling and that risk increases when they are acutely ill in hospital and generally frailer, however many falls can be prevented. Healthcare professionals working in hospitals across the NHS South Central region have been receiving specialist training to help them to prevent, manage and reduce harm from falls.’



For further information please contact RCP PR Manager Linda Cuthbertson on 020 7935 1254, 0794 105 7494 or linda.cuthbertson@rcplondon.ac.uk.

Visit the FallSafe web pages for updates and further details of the project.

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