28 November 2017

The Trust which runs Shropshire’s two acute hospitals is working hard to prevent patients from falling.

The issue of falls is one that affects the whole of the NHS. According to the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), there will be between 5-18 falls per 1,000 bed-days in acute hospitals. Factors such as cognitive impairment (delirium or dementia), previous falls, continence issues and medication can make patients at even greater risk.

In 2011/12 five patients sadly died following falls at Shropshire’s two acute hospitals, The Princess Royal in Telford and the Royal Shrewsbury.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which runs the two hospitals, has been co-operating with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) with their investigations into these sad incidents. Last year, the Trust admitted a breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Expert evidence suggests that, even had all preventative measures been in place, the falls may still not have been avoidable.

During sentencing, the judge in this case recognised that SaTH had demonstrated good early reporting, co-operated fully with the HSE, taken remedial steps to raise standards, had good health and safety processes in place and had shown a sincere interest in improving care and had an open culture.

Simon Wright, Chief Executive of The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said: “I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences to the families of these patients.

“We have fully co-operated at all stages with the HSE and also kept our own Health and Safety Committee up-to-date about the progress of this case.

“We recognise that falls are an issue across the NHS and we have introduced a number of measures to ensure that we reduce the number of falls, particularly those which lead to harm, to an absolute minimum.

“In the five years since these sad cases occurred we have made great improvements in reducing falls. In 2015-16 we reduced the number of falls resulting in serious harm – those which lead to fractured hips – by around a third. Our staff are working tirelessly to reduce the number of falls even further.”

Improvements taken by the Trust since these incidents in 2011 and 2012 include:

  • Employing a Falls Prevention Nurse, whose role is to support our staff to reduce the chances of a patient falling in our hospitals and to help to educate them to reduce the risk of patient falls on our sites.
  • Introducing Falls Link Workers who are on the front-line to help support their colleagues by offering advice and helping our patients, their relatives and carers.
  • Increased training for our staff with targeted learning and education tailored to Wards where falls have happened.
  • Working hard to ensure that patients who no longer need our care are discharged in a safe, timely and appropriate manner to the next stage of their care as we know that hospitals are not the best place for patients who no longer need the specialist treatment we provide.
  • Involvement in a community falls group which shares strategies and learning to help reduce the number of falls in our hospitals.
  • Development of leaflets which are given to patients, their families and carers. The leaflets focus on helping to avoid a fall whilst in hospital, as well as the safe use of bedrails.
  • Introduction of falls bracelets. These help staff in their ward area identify patients who may be at risk of a fall but also help when patients are taken to other clinical areas, e.g. X-Ray.
  • Ensuring that high/low beds are being used correctly along with crash mats and, advising staff on matters of falls prevention and safety.

As well as this, between 2011 and 2016 3,323 Trust staff members have attended dementia awareness training; and between January 2013 and September 2016, 663 Nurses undertook a half-day Preventing Falls In Hospitals course, organised by the Royal College of Physicians and FallSafe.

Simon said: “I’d like to reassure people that serious falls in our hospitals are rare and that we are doing all we can to prevent them from happening.”