Kevin McKenna

Hospitals are naturally high risk places for falls, and this can be seen in the figures. Falls account for ¼ of harm in hospitals and UCLH reports an average of 130 impatient falls per month. Kevin McKenna, quality improvement lead nurse explains that falls are serious and can result in a significant amount of pain or deterioration, especially for elderly patients.

Falls can cause broken bones or excessive bleeding and at UCLH typically one patient will fall and break their hip per month. Approximately 1 in 5 people die within three months of breaking their hip which accounts for 14,000 deaths annually. “This demonstrates the severity and seriousness of falls in hospitals”, says Kevin. He explains that even in less extreme circumstances, falls can be debilitating and symptoms will certainly increase the length of hospital stay for the patient and costs the NHS 2.3 billion pounds per year.

Avoiding unnecessary falls is of the utmost importance to the NHS, and that’s why UCLH has begun the falls prevention programme with funding from UCLH Charity. The programme will take place in the top ten wards where the most falls happen, and includes simple measures that aim to avoid unnecessary falls, such as providing slippers and anti-slip socks for patients.

“Some patients will come in with slippers where backs have been trodden on and soles are coming loose. Exchanging these for a supportive slipper is an easy and effective measure.”

As part of the programme, UCLH is also looking into the way in which the wards for high-risk patients are designed. The pilot project will create areas designed specifically for fall reduction. This will include beds that are lower to floor level, automatic lights in bathrooms and alarm bells that are designed to go off when a high-risk patient gets up without supervision. All of these measures are part of the “call not fall” project – a wider campaign to encourage patients to ask for help.

Kevin says that change is not only needed from the patients, but staff also play a huge role in ensuring that best practice is implemented. He explains that statistics from two years ago show that most falls on wards happen during handover, so employing simple measures to enhance staff presence during this time could ensure a reduction of falls.

Kevin concludes that these measures will only be effective if staff and patients are involved on an individual basis. "That’s why I’ll be approaching local wards to share best practice methods. Let’s make this change happen.”