Helping hand for falls varies in UK
Published on 27 March 2012 12:00 PM
The way ambulance services deal with 999 calls for older people who have fallen varies dramatically across the regions, a survey has revealed.
Some 40% of older people who fall and call the emergency services, in the UK and internationally, are not transported to hospital.
The study, carried out by experts at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Health Services Research in Sheffield and Swansea University, found the proportion of patients left at home in the UK varies from 7% to 65%.
The teams surveyed 11 out of 13 services.
They also found that while all ambulance services had systems in place to transfer 999 calls about such falls to telephone-based clinical advisors, one service had an additional system where calls deemed less urgent were referred to falls teams to assess and 'pick up' patients.
The authors of the survey, published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, said: 'The key issues identified relate to wide variations in provision of care across services.
'These findings highlight the urgent need for research to inform policy, service and practice development for the large and frail population of older people who have fallen and for whom a 999 call has been made.'
Around a third of over-65s fall each year. Previous research found 8% of all emergency calls in London concern older people who have fallen.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, said: 'Evidence shows that an integrated care pathway that joins up local services is essential for a good falls service - and emergency care is a crucial element of this.
'Not everyone who has a fall needs to go to hospital, but everyone who has fallen or is as risk of falling should have a full risk assessment and be referred for appropriate treatment.
'New commissioning bodies and service providers must get this right. Not only would this make a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of many older people but it would also make a significant contribution to the NHS efficiency target - falls are currently estimated to cost the NHS £1.8 billion a year.
'Falls can have a devastating impact on both the physical and emotional wellbeing of older people; leaving many afraid to leave the house and becoming ever more socially isolated.'
Copyright Press Association 2012