National praise for NEAS project aimed at reducing injuries from falls
NEAS tackle problem that costs the NHS £2.3 billion a year
Watch our video to see the scheme in action.
Nearly 200 people from across the UK attended a conference on
falls prevention at the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday 28
September. The conference was organised by the North East Ambulance
Service (NEAS) NHS Foundation Trust and NHS North East to share
best practice from their experiences in preventing falls.
The Falls Project is based on all agencies who come into contact
with individuals who could be at risk of a fall sharing information
- so preventative measures can be taken.
Forms of intervention range from installing hand rails in the
patient's home, or ensuring help is provided to carry out certain
The project - pioneered by NEAS and other health professionals
in the North East - has since been adopted by bodies elsewhere in
the UK. These include three borough councils in London.
Earlier this year, the Falls Project won a national NHS
Jo Webber, Director of Ambulance Service Network, said: "When we
heard what the North East region has been doing to prevent falls,
we wondered why no-one else in the country has done this. The
preventative work on falls in the North East has been a fantastic
effort when you look at the scale of the problem of falls
"The evidence from the North East is compelling that the model
here really does work. But no organisation can do this on their
own. It needs whole systems collaboration."
She said that one in three people aged over 65 (and one in two
people aged over 85) fall each year nationally. This costs the NHS
For people aged over 75, falls is the leading cause of mortality
from injury and she said that one in five people die within three
months of a hip fracture in this age group.
Jo said: "What has happened in the North East region, between
the ambulance service, hospitals, falls teams and university, is
really a no brainer."
Prof Julia Newton, Associate Dean of Clinical Developments &
Clinical Professor of Aging and Medicine, Newcastle University,
said: "Falls is the most common cause of accidents in older people.
Up to 45% of fallers aged over 65 attend an A&E department, but
they suffer far more than just broken bones.
"They sustain a lack of confidence; they are less likely to stay
in their own home; and less likely to remain independent; and more
likely to become isolated. Older people fear losing their
independence by going to a home after falling, so the people we see
in our falls clinics are really just the tip of the iceberg.
"There is also a perception among the elderly that falling is
part of the aging process. It's not. The North East Ambulance
Service should be credited for what they have done in this area and
I applaud them for this. There are not many organisations that
would think outside their own area of work to make a real
She said that in 2005, a study between NEAS and Newcastle upon
Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust showed that 48 hours of
ambulance crews' time was used in responding to elderly people who
had called 999 after falling in the Newcastle City area over a
seven month period. This cost the ambulance service approximately
£172,000 in that time.
Prof Newton said: "We wanted to develop a strategy that would
focus on reducing these ambulance call-outs." The evidence she
presented to the conference showed a dramatic reduction in falls as
a result of early intervention and collaboration between different
"The next challenge for us is to encourage even more older
people to engage more and undertake a falls prevention risk
assessment. This is a problem for all of us and we will have a far
greater impact we can develop strategies to work together."