Drop in the number of patients who have fallen at South Tyneside District Hospital

Falls prevention consultant Suba Thirugnanasothy specialist nurse Catherine Peel
Falls prevention consultant Suba Thirugnanasothy specialist nurse Catherine Peel

South Tyneside District Hospital’s success in reducing patient falls is highlighted in a new, national report.

The 53 per cent reduction in falls with harm in the first six months of the year, compared to last year.

We had a lot of interest in our ideas from other trusts taking part and we learnt a lot from them.

Dr Suba Thirugnanasothy

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust was one of 19 in England which took part in the NHS Improvement’s (NHSI) 90-day falls collaborative earlier this year.

The scheme aimed at reducing the rate of falls in their hospitals and sharing examples of best practice and innovation which could be replicated across the NHS.

The report, published yesterday, found the estimated cost of reported inpatient falls for England in 2015/16 was £630million.

Consultant geriatrician Dr Suba Thirugnanasothy, who is South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s falls lead, said: “We were delighted when we were selected to be part of the falls collaborative. We felt it could help us to drive forward changes in practice to ensure a significant improvement in our inpatient falls rate.

“We had a lot of interest in our ideas from other trusts taking part and we learnt a lot from them. Our aim now is to build upon all the good work arising out of the collaborative to make our trust a centre of excellence for falls prevention and management. Staff across all areas have been really enthusiastic and have given us vital feedback which we’re incorporating in our improvement work.”

Before being given the opportunity to join the collaborative, the trust had already identified falls as a top priority and improvement work had begun.

This included increased training for medical and nursing staff, renewed emphasis on medical staff reviewing medications known to increase the risk of falling in older adults, and the appointment of a falls specialist nurse. Link nurses for falls have been identified on every ward at the District Hospital. The falls specialist nurse meets with them and gives monthly updates to the trust’s falls operational group, which ensures that improvements and learning are shared throughout the organisation. In addition, new starters in the Trust at all levels receive some falls training as part of the staff induction programme.

The next step will be to roll out a new, improved falls prevention assessment and care plan.

The trust’s medical director Dr Shaz Wahid added: “Our focus is always on quality improvement to enhance patient safety and the efficiency and effectiveness of our services so I’m delighted that we were able to build upon the work we were already doing in relation to falls through our involvement in the collaborative to make such a positive impact, and we intend making more improvements in the future.”

Falls are among the four most prevalent harms in hospitals (pressure ulcers, urinary tract infections and problems linked to blood clots or venous thromboembolism being the others) and they can cause frail and vulnerable patients severe harm. Even minor injuries which result from a fall can lead to reduced mobility, pain, anxiety and distress and loss of confidence and independence. They also put increased pressure on NHS services.