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Dedicated service for falls patients helps more than 200 people

A DEDICATED service for patients who have fallen in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area has helped more than 200 people to get back on their feet.

The Falls Response Service, which is being run jointly by the Welsh Ambulance Service and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, aims to provide a timely response for patients who have suffered a fall in the community and are either uninjured or have a minor injury.

The team, which consists of a registered paramedic and a physiotherapist on a specialist vehicle, provides patients with a full medical and social assessment.

They will also signpost them to the most appropriate care pathway for their needs and in the majority of cases are able to prevent an unnecessary visit to the Emergency Department.

The six-month trial was launched in October 2016 and so far the team have assisted 229 patients who have accessed the 999 system, 183 of whom were able to be treated at home.

James Gough, who is the Project Lead for the Welsh Ambulance Service and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said: “Waiting for help after a fall can be an anxious and difficult time, especially if you are elderly, but thanks to this collaboration with the health board, we have been able to come to the aid of patients quicker.

“Going to the Emergency Department is not always the best solution for patients, particularly when they are not injured, and in 80 per cent of cases they were able remain within the comfort of their own home.

“Care can often be provided at home and, as well as giving timely medical assistance, we can also carry out an in depth social assessment to make sure that they have the right care package in place

“The Falls Response Service also prevents the need to send an emergency ambulance to low acuity calls, improving the availability of ambulances to attend to life threatening calls and improving emergency response times within the health board area.”

As well as helping patients who have fallen, the service is also available to attend 999 calls coded as red – the most serious category – when it is the nearest available resource.

The team currently operates seven days a week, between 8am and 8pm from Blackwood Ambulance Station.

The trial was successful in receiving funding via the Welsh Assembly Intermediate Care Fund, which aims to encourage closer integration between social services, health, housing and the third and independent sectors.

Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies and Health Science for the health board, said: “The Falls Response Service in Gwent places the patient at the heart of their treatment and keeps them in their own environment when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“Taking older patients to hospital with very minor injuries can cause them and their families inconvenience and distress – the Falls Response Service delivers the highest standard of care to patients in their own homes while keeping hospital beds available for those who need them most.

“It is remarkable that the service has already managed to treat four out of five patients in their own home without the need for transfer to hospital.”

Within Wales, about ten per cent of all 999 calls to the Welsh Ambulance Service are categorised as a fall, and, as well as creating specialised falls pathways, the Trust is also pioneering a number of initiatives across Wales to make sure patients receive an appropriate and timely response.

A collaborative trial is currently being run with Cardiff Council’s Telecare service where a community vehicle responds to assist patients who have fallen at home, but are not injured.

The mobile response team is made up of trained wardens who are able to come to the aid of people in the city 24 hours a day, and can refer patients to an Occupational Therapist who will advise on available falls prevention methods.

In Conwy and Denbighshire, a joint initiative is running with North Wales Fire and Rescue Service in the form of a specialised team of staff who respond to vulnerable people who have experienced a fall at home.

The Community Assistance Team includes fully trained staff members recruited from the fire service, who are equipped to lift non-injured fallers and provide an improved patient experience.

There are also ten dedicated Community First Responder falls response teams across the country, using specialist equipment to lift elderly fallers and provide a timely response.

Editor’s notes

Picture caption: Members of the Falls Response Service have come to the aid of 229 patients.

For more information, please call Communications Officer Liam Randall on 01745 532511 or 07841 840 632 or email Liam.Randall@wales.nhs.uk