Fall risk high in older patients
Published on 12 June 2013 12:00 PM
Ninety older patients died in one year after falling over while in hospital, and hundreds more suffered serious injuries, figures show.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has called for health bosses to take immediate action to address the problem, urging them to devise a plan to reduce the likelihood of falls in 'at risk' patients.
209,000 hospital falls in one year
The guidance was issued after figures showed that nearly 209,000 falls were reported in hospitals in England in just one year from October 2011.
Although most patients experienced little or no harm, around 900 suffered 'severe' injuries such as hip fractures and head wounds, while 90 patients died.
A 'serious problem'
Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said falling over is a serious problem in hospitals and the likelihood increases with age as people become frailer.
'They can cause distress, pain, injury, a loss of confidence and independence and, in some cases, death,' he said.
'While it would be virtually impossible to prevent all hospital falls from happening, our guideline calls for doctors and nurses to address the issues that will reduce the risk of their patients suffering avoidable harm. No two patients are the same and so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.'
Need to identify 'at risk' patients
All patients over the age of 65, as well as those aged over 50 with dementia, stroke, vision or hearing problems, should be deemed to be 'at risk', NICE said.
Medical professionals were urged to identify and assess these patients and create a plan to reduce each patient's chances of falling while in their care.
'Physically and emotionally devastating'
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, said: 'The consequences of a fall in later life can be physically and emotionally devastating, potentially resulting in loss of mobility, independence and confidence.
'In addition to the pain caused to the individual, falls cost around £6 million a day in hospital and social care costs to treat.'
She stressed that implementing these new guidelines to reduce falls in hospitals must be a priority for the health service, not only to improve patient safety but to help save precious NHS resources.
Copyright Press Association 2013