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 tasks.

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 award.

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 nationally.

"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 £2.3 billion.

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 difference."

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 organisations."

"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."


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