Every year more than 3.4 million people over 65 suffer a fall that can cause serious injury or death.
New figures released, show the significant cost of NHS emergency admissions for falls and fractures among older people.
A 2017 report, commissioned by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), has revealed that in 2014/15 there were 12,654 emergency admissions for falls in the North East and North Cumbria, costing an estimated £84,973,249 to the region’s NHS.
The figures are released as Falls Prevention Awareness week launches for the first time in the UK, taking place from 22 – 29 September. The AHSN NENC aim to raise awareness that falls are not a normal part of ageing, or something that ‘just happens’ as you get older; and that they are preventable.
Falls and fractures are a common and a serious health issue faced by older people in the UK that can cause pain, loss of confidence, loss of independence and admission to institutional care and mortality.
Every year, there are around 255,000 falls-related emergency hospital admissions in England among patients aged 65 and older. Falls are estimated to cost the NHS more than £2.3bn a year and the annual total cost of fragility fractures to the UK has been estimated at £4.4bn.
The report also found that around a third of all people aged 65 and over fall each year and amongst older people living in the community, 5% of those who fall in a given year will suffer from fractures and hospitalisation.
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Professor Julia Newton, AHSN NENC Medical Director and Professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University, said: “While our region’s hospitals perform better than the England average when it comes to quality of care received after a fall, within the North East and North Cumbria, the number of older people who fall is significantly higher – as are the subsequent costs to our NHS.
“This therefore highlights the importance of prevention and to support Falls Prevention Awareness Week we have created a poster and video resource and a dedicated webpage to provide older people and their families with practical tips to avoid falls. The video has been sent out to over 2000 GP Practices, Federations, Hospital Trusts and Local Authorities in the region to show in all waiting areas.
“There are lots of things older people can do to reduce their risk of suffering a fall, including replacing worn out shoes, clearing clutter, loose wires and rugs from around the house and seeing your optician for regular eye tests.
“By engaging with Health and Social Care professionals, the AHSN NENC’s Falls and Fractures programme seeks to embed all elements of falls prevention into practice across the region in both primary and secondary care settings.”
The AHSN NENC’s Falls and Fractures programme aims to reduce the number of recorded falls and their impacts on the North East and North Cumbria’s NHS by showcasing examples of best practice across all healthcare settings and profiling current service improvement and research initiatives across the region that can transform care pathways, reduce risk of falls and improve patient outcomes.
Carole Reed, 58, an Admin Officer for the Community and Healthcare Forum, North Tyneside, understands first-hand the impact a fall can have on your life. She suffered a fall at home around a year ago, slipping on wet decking in her garden. After X-rays revealed she had broken her right elbow, Carole spent seven weeks recovering in a sling, but returned to hospital with excruciating pain where doctors discovered that her shoulder had also been dislocated when she fell.
Carole was then referred to hospital for surgery to reconstruct her shoulder and, as part of her recovery, underwent six weeks of physio. Carole said: “Almost a year after the fall, my doctor is pleased with my progress but has warned that I may suffer with conditions like arthritis in the future.
“Since my fall it’s often the day to day tasks we all take for granted that I now struggle with. I tend to use my left hand a lot more now than I used to and I struggle to carry out tasks like the ironing or sitting at a computer for prolonged periods of time without aching.
“The lasting effects of my fall have left me a lot more nervous now. I’m paranoid of tripping up again and would say it’s crucially important for more people, who are perhaps more vulnerable to falling, to be aware of the long-term physical and mental impacts and put measures in place to reduce their risk of a fall.”
‘Fall in Fall’ takes place each year on the first week of ‘Fall’ in the USA to raise awareness of Falls Prevention. The AHSN NENC, alongside its members and partners, want to recycle and bring ‘Falls Prevention Awareness Week’ (taking place Friday 22nd September – Friday 29th September 2017) to the UK.
The initiative is also being supported by Dementia Care. Dr Fraser Quin, CEO at Dementia Care, said: “At Dementia Care, we believe that dementia specific services can reduce the incidence of falls amongst the people we care for. We are currently undertaking a project to show how attendance at Day Care services, or residence in Independent Supported Living accommodation with specifically trained dementia staff, can reduce a whole series of incidents around falls and other ailments such as UTI’s.
“Furthermore, through our early intervention project’s “Dementia Guides”, we seek to educate and inform carers on the risks surrounding falls, and train and support our staff to ensure falls prevention is paramount in all of our services. We, therefore, support any initiative that can emphasise the need for preventative measures to address the issues around falls amongst the elderly.”
The ‘AHSN Fractures Programme: Intelligence for the North East & North Cumbria AHSN’ report was developed by the North East Quality Observatory Service.
To view the full report, visit: http://www.ahsn-nenc.org.uk