Guidelines for families and patients to help avoid preventable falls every day

Up to 600 patients have fallen in hospital each day due to poor hospital care, leading doctors have warned.

The Royal College of Physicians is urging relatives to clear obstacles from wards to prevent serious accidents.

Guidelines for families and patients with simple tips to help avoid what it estimates are 200 preventable falls every day.

Tips include:

1. Reminding patients to call for nurses if they need assistance walking and ensuring they always wear sensible shoes.

2. Instructing relatives to check for clutter around the bed after visiting patients and making sure walking frames are close at hand.

3. Telling patients to use their call bells if they need help walking to the bathroom or toilet.

4. Patients are also instructed to remember to eat and drink, to ensure they don’t become dizzy.

The College suggests that 240,000 mainly elderly patients fall in hospital in England and Wales a year, the equivalent of 600 a day.

But research has shown that 30 per cent of these, about 200 a day, could be easily prevented by doctors and nurses clearing clutter and helping patients while they are walking.

Yet the fact they are having to urge family members to help out will raise concerns that hospital staff are not currently doing enough to protect patients.

Dr Shelagh O’Riordan, of the Royal College of Physicians said: ‘When a patient falls in hospital, particularly an older patient, it can cause anxiety and distress for them and their families, even if the fall does not result in serious injury.

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Dr O’Riordan added: ‘It encourages them to be alert to risks and how these risks can be minimised. It also covers measures that hospital staff should take to reduce the risk of patient falls.’

Great grandmother Sylvia Page died when she fell over on a hospital ward and hit her head on a wall as she was helped to the toilet. The accident happened after an unsupervised student nurse tried to help the 86-year-old out of her hospital bed.

She had been in the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex for 11 days, when she stumbled. The health worker held her hands in a bid to keep the elderly woman steady but Mrs Page hit her head and died two days later from bleeding on the brain.

The family were awarded a five-figure sum of compensation for the mistake, which took place in June 2013, but Mrs Page’s son Michael, 62, said he had ‘little faith’ things would improve.

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The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust said at the time: ‘We have apologised to the family for the identified failings in the care provided to Mrs Page, which fell short of the standard of care that patients can reasonably expect to receive.’

Discussing the latest figures, Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: ‘Falls can be a serious threat to older people’s health and independence, causing pain, anxiety and loss of confidence.’