Norms of staff responses to falls in residential care

Jeanette Scott-Thomas
November 2017

The aim of the current research was to review the first-line response to patient falls in the independent care sector in North East England. The authors used an online questionnaire via ‘Survey Monkey’ software package, and a convenience sample of 24 of 32 independent care sector homes from South Tyneside, representing a 75% response rate. Policies and guidelines for falls were investigated and the findings highlight the disparate responses to incidences in care-home settings. Despite 96% having a policy on falls, only 80% included an assessment of possible injury or harm and 13% included no direct guidance for staff when residents fall. The most common action was to ring emergency services to move patients, even in the absence of physical injury. There was considerable ambiguity around the assessment of injuries and whose responsibility this was, particularly in falls with potentially non-visible injuries. Ambiguity was also present in the management of falls, where there was overlap between accident and falls policies. The current research highlights the need for policy standardisation. There is a potential fiscal impact on emergency ambulance services when they are contacted as the first-line response for falls regardless of the occurrence of injury. This has implications on staff education and the strategic planning of emergency ambulance services. Further consideration on the suitability of falls policies is urgently required.

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