Falls in hospitals still a major problem despite prevention strategies

Falls in hospitals still a major problem despite prevention strategies

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Anti fall strategies failing to stop hospital falls. Image. Sydney Morning Festival

Anti fall strategies failing to stop hospital falls. Image. Sydney Morning Festival

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An anti-fall program and fall prevention strategies have had no effect on falls or fall injuries in hospital new research has shown.

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AN ANTI-FALL program and fall prevention strategies have had no effect on falls or fall injuries in hospital new research has shown.

The research by Monash University researchers involved testing the nurse-led ‘6-PACK’ program which involves completing a fall-risk tool and implementing one or more of six interventions: a ‘falls alert’ sign; supervision of patients in the bathroom; ensuring patients’ walking aids are within reach; a toileting regime; use of a low-low bed; and use of a bed/chair alarm.

Associate Professor Anna Barker and Ms Renata Morello from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine’s Falls and Bone Health Team, within the Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), led the study involving 31,411 patients in 24 acute wards in six Australian hospitals between 2012 and 2013, the largest undertaken worldwide to date.

“Falls are one of the largest causes of patient harm in Australian hospitals, with more than 30,000 falls recorded in 2013-14 – they are a national safety and quality priority,” Dr Barker said.

The key findings of the trial were that despite the introduction of the 6-PACK program improving fall-risk tool completion and the use of fall prevention strategies recommended by best practice guidelines, the study observed that there was no effect on falls or fall injuries compared with usual care. Falls remain a frequent and substantial source of harm for patients in acute hospitals.

”Solutions to the issue of in-hospital falls, the most frequent patient safety incident in hospitals, are urgently required,” Dr Barker said.

According to a preliminary examination of deaths reported to the Coroners Court of Victoria, approximately 60 deaths from falls occurred in Victorian hospitals in 2015.

Ms Morello said that patients who experience an in-hospital fall almost doubled their length of stay in hospital, and the hospital bears a significant burden in costs whether or not the fall resulted in injury.

The study has been published in the British Medical Journal.

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