New Co-ordinated Falls Service Launched in Belfast

11/10/2017

The Community Falls Prevention and Management Service was launched in Belfast on October 9th at Girdwood Community Hub. The initiative aims to reduce the risk of falls amongst frail elderly people and to enable older patients to remain at home after a fall, rather than be admitted to hospital.

Falls are very common amongst the elderly and are a cause of acute distress for patients and for their families. In addition to this, a fear of falling can have a devastating impact, leading to reduced activity and social isolation.

The new co-ordinated service - spearheaded by the Belfast Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) - is a joint initiative with a number of partners including Belfast Trust, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and the Public Health Agency (PHA). Access to funding is provided by the Belfast Local Commissioning Group and by the PHA, whilst the Trust and other partners provide a range of medical, community, voluntary and social services.

Dr Alan Stout, GP Lead and Chairman of the East Belfast Integrated Care Partnership, explains the service:

“The Community Falls Prevention and Management Service is an excellent example of a truly joined up and innovative way of working that will deliver seamless care; provide a better experience for patients, their families and carers; and reduce pressure on hospital services. The service is designed to enable health and social care providers to work more closely together to keep people well in local communities and to better share information to plan safe, high quality care around each individual’s needs.”

The Trust’s Barbara Walker adds that the new service focuses on elderly patients who have fallen at home and who are attended to by the NIAS:

“Paramedics can now make a referral to the BHSCT Falls service, and an appropriate member of the team will contact the patient/family member within 48 hours to provide support, advice and appropriate intervention. They will also identify and address risks that could lead to further falls and co-ordinate any referrals to other medical services including GPs, allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, and community and voluntary services.”

Ciaran McKenna, from NIAS, explains the benefits of working in partnership:

“With in excess of 20,000 calls per year NIAS were extremely pleased to have helped establish this pathway and it demonstrates the benefits of collaborative working. This service now means that NIAS have access to a regional falls pathway which offers patients services more appropriate to their needs and enhances their experience as they are able to remain at home instead of being transported to the Emergency Department.”

Alan Marsden, Deputy Commissioning Lead for Belfast adds:

“The Belfast Local Commissioning Group welcomes this development and commends the ICP, NIAS and other stakeholders for working together to make it happen.”

Whilst Sarah Reid, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, also offers her perspective:

“A service like this will help improve the lives of older people who are more susceptible to falls…By taking action early, examining and addressing risk factors, we can help reduce the risk of further falls and help older people live independently and prevent unnecessary time spent in hospital or the need for placements in nursing and residential homes.”