The Newcastle/Gateshead falls team

Newcastle/Gateshead falls project extended

A pilot project to help and treat elderly people who have fallen is to run for another year.

The Falls Rapid Response Service operates in Newcastle and Gateshead and is made up of paramedics and occupational therapists who respond to 999 and 111 calls to the North East Ambulance Service.

The paramedics carry out a medical assessment and, where possible, treat injuries, before a decision is made about whether the patient is medically well enough to stay at home.

The occupational therapist then carries out a falls risk assessment which includes an assessment of the patient’s mobility and identification of any risks in their own home.  Where appropriate, advice is given and referrals are made to alternative services such as strength and balance exercise classes to help minimise the risk of future falls.

The team use a dedicated car which has equipment to help lift and move patients.

The scheme was set up in September 2018 and a decision has now been taken to run it for another year and be available from 7am-7pm, seven days a week.  Previously it operated from 8am-6pm.

The scheme has led to:

-  A reduction in the number of unnecessary hospital admissions;

-  less pressure on A&E departments and the ambulance service;

-  cuts in the response time to falls patients; and

-  a more holistic approach to helping and supporting patients.

Dan Haworth, a consultant paramedic at NEAS, said:

“Falls can have a debilitating effect on the lives of older people.  Apart from any physical injuries, it can have a psychological impact such as loss of confidence and independence.

“The falls rapid response team has allowed us to see and help patients more quickly and to support them to remain in the community where appropriate.”

Yvonne Ormston MBE, chief executive at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, added:

“This is a really innovative scheme that is not only supporting elderly patients locally but also helping us reduce unnecessary hospital visits. By working together with our partners in the ambulance service we’re able to provide a really valuable service that helps people stay in their own homes but also provides a safer environment for the future that helps prevent further falls.

“Nobody wants to be in hospital unless they really need to be and as we move into winter this service will ensure we’re providing better care and also saving valuable NHS resources.”

The pilot project is funded by the Newcastle and Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in collaboration with the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), the Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Falls are the most common cause of death from injury for people over 65, account for 40% of ambulance call outs and are also the single biggest reason for hospital admissions for older people.  They are also a key reason for older people moving into long-term nursing or residential care.

Falls cost the NHS £2.3bn.  Between September 2018 and July 2019, the team visited 700 elderly patients.  It’s estimated that before the pilot started, 65% of elderly patients in the Newcastle/Gateshead area were admitted to hospital following a fall.  Now almost two out of three stay at home.  75% of those patients discharged at home were referred on to community-based services to prevent further falls and ensure the patients’ homes were safer.

The Falls Rapid Response Service has also been shortlisted in this year’s Bright Ideas in Health Awards organised by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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