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Best Foot Forward for Fallers

By Published September 13, 2018

North East healthcare providers are putting their best foot forward to reduce the impact of falls on elderly people.

In partnership with Newcastle and Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group and Gateshead CBC and Newcastle community teams, North East Ambulance Service have developed a holistic care package and rapid response service for patients who fall.

The exciting new service will consist of a multi-disciplinary team in which paramedics and occupational therapists will work together to provide a timely response and deliver care to older patients who have fallen, thereby reducing the need for a hospital admission and prevent future falls.  The Falls team are the first for the North East but the scheme has been a success in Lancashire and Bristol. The staff are able to refer to care and support services, exercise sessions, occupational therapy in the community, GP’s, psychological assessments and equipment for the home such as walking aids.

Three qualified paramedics who are Matt Curtis, Dave Puddy and Nicola Main as well as three Occupational Therapists, Phillippa Ellison-Rothwell, Tripta Rathour and Joanna Donnelly have been recruited to support patients who have fallen in the North East.

Matt said, “It’s an exciting and innovative service that will make a massive difference in keeping people out of hospital and providing preventive support by promoting confidence and independence for elderly patients at home. Whilst still in its infancy, I’m excited to play a part in shaping a successful service and see it implemented throughout the region.”

Dave said, “This is an exciting change which will enable patients to stay at home and not get caught up within the hospital admissions system and also reduce distress. Sometimes there is no other way of keeping patients safe than to take them to hospital at the moment, but this will help prevent future falls.”

Phillippa said, “By working alongside paramedics, we are able to provide a rapid medical assessment of patients and support them at home to do things differently. We are able to offer multifactorial and functional risk and safety assessment and are able to signpost other services, allowing them to stay safe and independent and also minimising the risk of future falls. A lot of people don’t want to come to hospital and community resources are a benefit.

“The psychological trauma of falling can lead to social isolation and fear. This joint multidisciplinary team can reduce this by providing immediate care and support, and help give patients back their confidence.”

Falls and related injuries are a significant concern for older people.  Thirty percent of people over 65, and 50 percent of people over 80 have at least one fall in a year.  One fall in twenty leads to hospital admission and one in ten causes significant injury. 

Advanced practice and pathway development manager at NEAS, Dan Haworth explains, “We know that a fall is the fourth most common reason for people requesting an ambulance and we have worked in partnership across the North East to provide a better experience for those patients who have fallen without injury. 

“A dedicated multi-skilled crew like this will be able to support many patients back on their feet without the need for a NEAS emergency care crew.  This will increase our ambulances’ availability to attend life threatening calls.”

NEAS also supports three Alternative Response Teams (ART) for patients who have fallen in North Tyneside, North Tees and Hartlepool and County Durham.  Falls schemes are designed to give patients who have fallen without injury an early response and reduce the number of injuries caused by offering advice and assessments for people who have recently fallen, or who are at risk of falling.

The new recruits will respond to 999 callers who have fallen within the Newcastle and Gateshead area seven days a week between 8am and 6pm, working from Gateshead ambulance station on a rapid response vehicle.  They will provide both an initial response to patients as well as being a point of secondary referral for NEAS crews already on scene.

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