Local ambulance service initiative to prevent falls saves many trips to hospital
In addition to bruising, fractures, and in some cases, death (hip fractures amongst older persons carry a 30% mortality rate). A fall can destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence.
In the year to 31 March 2012 South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) attended 434157 incidents across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire of which 75549 (17.4%) were to people who had fallen. In winter during freezing temperatures falls can account for 1 in 3 of the emergency 999 calls the Trust receives.
In Oxfordshire during the same period, 11166 (16.7%) out of 66777 incidents SCAS attended were to people who had suffered a fall.
In Buckinghamshire during the same period, 13767 (17.3%) out of 79404 incidents SCAS attended were to people who had suffered a fall.
In Berkshire during the same period, 16786 (17.2%) out of 97438 incidents SCAS attended were to people who had suffered a fall.
In Hampshire during the same period 33830 (17.7%) out of 190538 incidents SCAS attended were to people who had suffered a fall.
Patients fall for a variety of reasons, which include serious medical conditions. Our ambulance crews now carefully assess each patient that has fallen on an individual basis. Some patients require assessment in hospital, but a large number are left at home, once a serious illness has been excluded. Patients left at home are now routinely referred to Specialist Falls Teams across our area, and our crews use a nationally recognized tool to "triage" these cases for the Specialist Falls Teams.
Historically we were referring less than 1% of our non-conveyed fallers, but in the year to 31 March 2012 SCAS referred 11853 fallers aged 65 years or more to Specialist Falls Teams enabling these patients to remain at home and not be conveyed unnecessarily to a hospital emergency department (ED). In the same year SCAS conveyed 25293 patients who had suffered a fall to a hospital ED. In other words 47% of the falls patients we attended were NOT taken to hospital, but treated at home or close to home; benefiting them and helping to ease the pressures on hospitals.
SCAS Consultant Pre-Hospital Care Practitioner Mark Ainsworth-Smith said:
'Patients fall for a variety of reasons. Our highly trained ambulance staff are now carefully assessing falls cases on an individual basis to decide whether patients require hospital admission or not. Those that are not admitted to hospital are now routinely referred to Specialist Falls Teams. The Specialist Falls Teams are experts at preventing patients from falling again, which hugely benefits patients.
'The falls services are able to improve the quality of life of at-risk patients by directly preventing fractures. They can help to minimise risks (like poor lighting and environmental hazards such as loose or worn carpets) and arrange medication reviews or eye examinations for patients. Patients often receive a thorough medical examination or are given advice on maintaining posture and balance. If things do go wrong and a patient falls over, patients are taught to pick themselves up, or call for help. Exercise classes and assessment clinics are also available in most areas.'
Published 18 June 2012