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Policies and strategies to prevent patient falls in hospital

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12


Emeritus Professor Alan Glasper, University of Southampton, discusses polices and strategies used by nurses to minimise patient falls in hospital

While walking my dog in the forest recently, I tripped over a hidden tree root and there was nothing I could do to stop myself falling. I tried to avoid hitting my head, fell heavily on my right shoulder and pummelled my left elbow into my rib cage. Fortunately, nothing was broken but I suffered significant pain and bruising for a number of weeks. It gave me quite a fright and I have avoided this woodland path ever since. Some days later I saw a preschool child fall hard on his hands and knees, but he bounced up as if he were made of rubber and carried on playing as if nothing had happened! In contrast, falls for the elderly are both frightening and something they dread happening.

Patient falls account for the most frequently reported safety incident in NHS hospitals (Morris and O'Riordan, 2017). As in my own case, no fall in older adults is harmless: falls in hospital can cause physical injury in 30-50% of cases, with fractures occurring in up to 3% of cases. Falls can also lead to a range of associated psychological and physical morbidities, such as loss of patient confidence, and delays in recovery and subsequent discharge (Morris and O'Riordan, 2017).

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