Prevention of inpatient falls has improved, but further change is needed

Published: 21 Nov 2017

The Royal College of Physicians National Audit for Inpatient Falls (NAIF) report shows that although prevention of inpatient falls across hospitals in England and Wales has improved slightly many patients are not receiving the required assessments which can help prevent falls in hospitals.

 View full report here

The report reveals that since 2015, many trusts and Local Health Boards (LHBs) have stopped using ‘falls risk screening/prediction tools’ (drop from 74% in 2015 to 33%). These tools do not sufficiently predict who will fall in hospital and means patients may not be being assessed correctly and therefore at more risk of harm from falling. Everyone over the age of 65  should be regarded  as being at risk of falling in hospital and considered for a multi-factorial falls risk assessment, as recommended by NICE guidelines (CG161).

The NAIF is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) and managed by the Royal College of Physicians, as part of the Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme. The report also shows that while nearly all patients had their level of mobility recorded (72%), only 40% of patients were assessed for the presence of delirium. Delirium is a change in a person’s mental state or consciousness, which is often observed as confusion, difficulties with understanding , problems with memory, as well as a change in personality. It is strongly associated with falls in hospital and can be prevented and treated if dealt with urgently.

Falls in hospitals result in longer hospital stays for patients and falls risk assessments can help in saving trusts resources at a time they are overstretched. NICE estimates the total cost of all falls to the NHS to be £2.3 billion. NHS Improvement calculated that a reduction in inpatient falls of between 25 and 30 per cent could result in a saving of £170 million a year.

Overall, the report highlights that some trusts and health boards are doing all they can to prevent falls in hospitals and they did improve in some or most of the key indicators. This shows that good practice is possible and should be prioritised in all trusts.

There are three key indicators that improved for patients most at risk between 2015 and 2017, including:

  • mobility aids in patient’s reach improved from 68% to 72%
  • delirium assessment improved from 37% to 40%
  • lying and standing blood pressure from 16% to 19%

However, there was no overall change in other areas to prevent falls in hospital including: continence and visual assessment, call bells within reach and medication reviews.

Key recommendations of the report include:

Dr Shelagh O’Riordan NAIF Clinical lead, said:

“This is the second time there has been a national audit of falls prevention in hospitals across England and Wales. Our results show that although there are areas of really good care, and significant improvements have been made by some hospitals, many hospitals are still not doing everything they can to prevent falls. I hope this audit can help clinical teams work towards reducing the number of falls currently happening in hospitals in England and Wales.

The NAIF report is the second audit report and shows data on over 5,000 patients aged 65 years or older across 198 hospitals and 146 trusts in England and Wales. The report includes an assessment of the patient’s environment and the falls risk assessments they receive, set against the NICE guideline (CG161).*

The full report can be found at: