900 hospital patients reported to suffer severe harm from falls whilst in hospital – medical negligence?

June 27, 2013
Ipek Tugcu - Solicitor in the Medical Negligence Team

Posted by: Ipek Tugcu


Slips, trips and falls account for the majority of injury-related admissions to hospital in people over the age of 65. 30% of those aged 65 and older fall at least once a year and that increases to 50% for those who are aged 80 and older.

However more and more older patients are suffering from falls during their stay in hospital. Between 1st October 2011 and 30th September 2012, there were nearly 209,000 reports of patients who had suffered falls whilst in hospital. While some of these patients are lucky to escape with minor injuries, others suffer severely. In that one year time period, around 900 patients in hospitals in England suffered severe harm, such as hip fractures or head injuries, as a result of falling. During this period, 90 patients died from their fall injuries.

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), which provides national health guidance, has said that the majority of these falls are completely preventable and has issued guidance advising staff to be on alert for patients at higher risk of falls. The guidance emphasises the importance of preventing falls from occurring, by identifying patients who are at a higher risk and ensuring safeguards are established to protect them. These include patients who are aged 65 or older and those who are aged over 50 who may have conditions which make them more vulnerable to falls, such as a stroke, dizziness or conditions affecting their mobility or sight. Safeguards recommended include adaptations to flooring, lighting, furniture and fittings such as frames on beds.

Michelle Mitchell, Director General of Age UK, added: “The consequences of a fall in later life can be physically and emotionally devastating, potentially resulting in loss of mobility, independence and confidence”.

Being in hospital is difficult enough, but to suffer further injuries due to preventable incidents will set back any patient’s recovery, both physically and mentally. I agree completely with Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, who commented “no two patients are the same and so a “one size fits all” approach will not work”. Each patient needs to an individual risk assessment for any vulnerabilities they may have and appropriate measures will need to be put into place for protection. Patients who have suffered as a result of failures to provide adequate safeguards should contact a medical negligence lawyer for advice.

I have dealt with claims for patients who have suffered medical negligence and falls in hospital and it is concerning that the majority of these involved elderly patients who had underlying conditions putting them at a higher risk. If you have concerns about a serious injury suffered in hospital, I would be happy to advise you on making a claim for compensation for medical negligence.

Please contact me on 0207 288 4849 or ipektugcu@boltburdonkemp.co.uk to discuss the matter with no obligation and free of charge.

Posted by: Ipek Tugcu

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