A groundbreaking service to help patients who have suffered falls has won a prestigious national award.
The Falls Partnership Team run by the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) is the first of its kind in the country and – with falls making up one in five 999 calls – aims to cut down on hospital admissions.
The partnership between EEAST and Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS NHST) have been nationally recognised for their work with older people in the Cambridge area by winning an NHS Innovation Challenge award, receiving a £50,000 prize fund.
EEAST Emergency Care Practitioner, Phil Lumbard, CCS NHST Occupational Therapist, Annami Palmer, and the team attended an awards ceremony in London last week to celebrate their success with other winners.
“We’d heard of the Innovation Challenge and just thought why not? We were doing something different so we sent in our application last summer,” Phil said.
The partnership with the CCS NHST responds to 999 calls where the patient has fallen, an incident which accounts for over 20% of the EEAST’s work. The falls team provide a complete assessment of the patient, including their functionality, mobility, their environment and their medical condition. They can refer the patient onto other services if needed as indicated by the results of the assessment.
Phil mans the falls vehicle alongside either an occupational therapist or physiotherapist from the CCS NHST and they also have a consultant geriatrician on hand for clinical advice.
“We look at whether the patient can get food and drink themselves, how their house is set up, can they get up the stairs and do they need a care plan or other support. There are lots of inconspicuous reasons for elderly people falling so we try to find a specific diagnosis and aim not to send people to hospital,” added Phil.
Annami Palmer, Therapy Lead, CCS NHST, said: “We’re delighted with the award. Falls represent the most frequent and serious type of accident in older adults. They can cause injury, destroy the person’s confidence, increase isolation and reduce the risk of them losing their independence. Although the risk of falling increases with age, our aim is to help people who have already had a fall and are more likely to fall in the future.”
The falls team usually spend over an hour and a half with a patient and the vehicle has specialist therapy equipment such as sliding sheets, a lifting cushion and bed and chair raisers on board.
Phil adds that feedback from patients has been brilliant so far with many liking the friendly, thorough and comprehensive service that the falls vehicle provided.
“The benefit of having a falls vehicle is the impact on the wider health care system as we are reducing visits to hospital and also provide an extra resource for the ambulance service.
“Our general population is ageing and we need to understand older people better and be proactive to ensure we can deal with the increasing demand,” said Phil.
The £50,000 will help to ensure that the falls vehicle continues to run successfully. Since winning the Innovation award, the Falls Partnership has attracted lots of attention and the team have been invited to take part in a national NHS Think Tank Conference in March and are also working with the British Geriatric Society. They have also received interest from other ambulance services in Surrey, Leicester and Derbyshire about setting up a falls service in their area.