Falls and fall-related injuries are sadly an increasingly common and serious problem for older and vulnerable people in hospitals. Although some falls are unavoidable, when a person at a risk of falling is in hospital or community care, there should be measures in place to protect them.
It is extremely important to ensure that patients, particularly those who are vulnerable or elderly, are assessed and monitored closely when they are admitted to hospital to ensure that they are safe. Falls in the elderly can have a significant impact on an individual’s long term recovery, quality of life and independence. They can have devastating consequences, including fractures, brain injury, loss of independence and even death.
A risk assessment is not time-consuming and it is a misconception that they always have to be written before being implemented. A visual assessment in a situation can often easily identify that a patient is vulnerable and at risk of falling, or that the score needs to be escalated if a patient appears to be at a higher risk than when they were first assessed. Simple steps can then be taken to ensure that they are safe.
Duty of care
Hospitals have a duty to carry out a risk assessment for any patient who may be vulnerable. To identify whether a patient may be at risk of falling, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provide that a number of factors that should be taken into account when assessing patients:-
- Cognitive impairment
- Continence problems
- Falls history, including causes and consequences (such as injury and fear of falling)
- Footwear that is unsuitable or missing
- Health problems that may increase their risk of falling
- Postural instability, mobility problems and/or balance problems
- Syncope syndrome
- Visual impairment
If an adequate risk assessment is carried out and a patient is identified at being at a risk of falling, it may result in a patient receiving closer nursing attention such as one to one care and assistance, ensuring that the sides are up on their bed or not leaving the patient unattended in a situation in which they could suffer a fall.
Failure to undertake a risk assessment
A failure to undertake a falls risk assessment may give rise to a clinical negligence case if the vulnerable person falls and suffers subsequent injury. It may be negligent care if a fall should have been avoided had necessary provisions identified by a risk assessment been implemented.
If you believe you or a relative has received unsatisfactory care and suffered injury due to a preventable fall, please contact our experienced and friendly team for an initial, free and no obligation consultation.