Specialist falls training for ambulance volunteers

Additional support available for the region's fallers

Specialist falls training has been provided to ambulance service volunteers to support fallers within their community.

Community First Responders (CFRs) are already an integral part of the patient care provided by North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) across the region.

They are volunteers, trained and dispatched by NEAS at the same time as an ambulance to deal with a specific list of emergencies within their local community, providing care and support to both the patient and their family prior to the arrival of the ambulance crew.

As part of a pilot project, NEAS has now provided additional training to nine CFRs to allow them to respond to patients who have fallen and are not deemed to have sustained an injury but require assistance from the floor.

With a fall being the fourth most common reason for someone requesting an ambulance, this project is the latest scheme to be launched by NEAS in a bid to improve the service it provides to fallers across the North East.

Falls and related injuries are a significant concern for older people particularly. Thirty percent of people over 65, and 50 percent of people over 80 have at least one fall in a year. One fall in twenty leads to hospital admission, of which one in ten has a significant injury. 

Falls schemes are designed to give patients who have fallen without injury an early response and reduce the number of injuries caused by offering advice and assessments for people who have recently fallen, or who are at risk of falling.

NEAS already supports three Alternative Response Teams (ART) for patients who have fallen in North Tyneside, North Tees and Hartlepool and County Durham, and recently launched a specialist falls scheme in Newcastle and Gateshead, teaming up paramedics with occupational therapists to provide a holistic care package and rapid response service for patients who fall.

The new scheme, which went live this week, will mirror that of the ARTs, allowing the volunteers to use lifting equipment to support the faller. However, unlike the other ARTs, CFRs will also have additional equipment to enable them to gather additional clinical information, such as temperature and oxygen levels, which they can then feed back to the clinicians working within NEAS’s Emergency Operations Centre, who will then be able to decide whether the patient is safe to be left at home or requires an additional NEAS resource to be dispatched for further treatment.

The pilot will initially cover the following areas:

  • Rothbury
  • Berwick
  • Alnwick
  • Cramlington
  • Newbraugh
  • Hartlepool

Gareth Campbell, clinical operations manager at NEAS, who is leading on this project, said: “Many people who fall have not sustained an injury but simply require assistance to be lifted off the floor and, because of this, they may sometimes wait longer than we would like for assistance.

“Falls schemes such as this not only help us to provide a more timely service to our patients to assist them from the floor as soon as possible, but it should also reduce the likelihood of physical deterioration along with the stress and fear experienced by patients who fall. By reducing the need for an emergency ambulance to attend, we are able to able to increase our ambulances’ availability to attend life-threatening calls.

“Our first responders already provide invaluable support to our frontline crews and patients so it makes perfect sense to trial our latest falls scheme on them. The addition of them being able to obtain additional readings for our clinicians means we are also quickly able to ascertain whether any further intervention is required or further investigation needed. In this instance, the clinician may decide an ambulance clinician is required or this information could be shared with the patient’s GP or local district nursing service for follow up.

“We have seen similar schemes work in other parts of the country and, if it’s the success we hope it will be, would be looking to roll it out further across the region.”

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