Medical Negligence

Blog: Falls in hospital – Ineffective risk assessments and a lack of resourcing

October 12, 2019
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Written by Christian Beadell, Partner & Head of Legal Strategy & Ops

Written by Fletchers Solicitor’s Senior Solicitor, Christian Beadell

Life changing injuries as a result of a fall

In patient falls are common and can lead to life changing injuries.

They have not gone unnoticed by the NHS, either. Falls are a significant cause of hospital stays and are a major contributor to the ongoing financial burden on the NHS.

The Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme is a National clinical audit programme that assesses the impact of falls in UK hospitals.

The programme aims to reduce hospital falls with better risk assessments.

In May 2019 the FFFAP published their annual report for Wales and found that the average 800 bed hospital will spend nearly £4 million per annum dealing with in patient falls:

An 800-bed hospital will have an average of 1,500 inpatient falls per year costing approximately £2,600 per patient. Falls are associated with increased length of stay, additional surgery and unplanned treatment. Multiple interventions by the multidisciplinary team and tailored to the patient can reduce falls by 20–30%

Source, FFFAP May 2019

In patient falls are costing the NHS millions

Overall it is estimated that falls of this nature can cost the NHS nearly £630 million every year due to some 250,000 falls.

Our clients often come to us with very traumatic injuries arising from hospital stay falls.  Most frequently, clients report hip and wrist fractures which serve to compound their recovery. Consequently, it is these injuries that have a major impact on their quality of life.

Often there has been an inadequate risk assessment on their fall in the first instance, or a failure to assess the patient at regular intervals.

Is a lack of resourcing and risk assessment to blame for hospital falls?

Sometimes it is a case of simply not carrying out a plan and leaving patients without assistance when mobilising.

Also, the cause of a fall can be multifarious. Moreover, the biggest contributing factor that we tend to see is a lack of resourcing and an inability to put in place effective risk management strategies.

For high risk elderly patients, the cost to both them and the NHS of a fall is substantial.

We hope that local health boards recognise the value in focusing time and money on in-patient assessment.

Ultimately, putting effective services in place to reduce these avoidable injuries occurring is paramount.

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