Ambulance crews called out to put old people back to bed

OVER-STRETCHED ambulance crews are being called out scores of times every week to lift old people who have fallen back into bed, it has been revealed.

Wednesday, 22nd July 2015, 6:30 am
10th September 2012. Boom in Elderly population story. Pictured generic shot of pensioner walking Picture by Gerard Binks.

Paramedics attended more than 15,000 call-outs for falls in Lancashire in 2014/15 – 71 
per cent of them involving over-65s.

And bosses say the vast majority of those who tumble in care homes or nursing homes are not injured and just needed putting back to bed.

Yet ambulances are dispatched to deal with a growing number of non-injury incidents because care staff are either unable, or unwilling, to lift them off the floor.

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Now a new group is being set-up across the county to tackle the problem.

County Hall bosses are set to establish a new county-wide group to tackle the issue which ambulance chiefs say is leading to thousands of emergency call-outs just to lift people back into bed.

Paramedics attended more than 15,000 falls incidents in 2014/15, with almost three-quarters of those involving the over-65s.

That figure is predicted to soar by more than a staggering 40 per cent over the next 15 years, with hospital admissions increasing even more.

The shock figures were delivered to a County Hall committtee which has now agreed to set up the new body, with the North West Ambulance Service playing a key role.

“We have met NWAS and falls in care homes take up an inordinate amount of their time,” said Coun Stephen Holgate, chairman of the county’s health scrutiny committee, after hearing the majority of call-outs were simply to lift patients back into bed.

“They are not necessarily an appropriate use of the ambulance service, so we felt this committee should look at what support is available for care homes to help prevent many falls in the future.”

Health professionals predict as many as 62,356 over-65s in the county will have a fall of some sort in 2015 - a two per cent rise on last year. Projections say that could rise by 12 per cent to 68,648 by 2020 and could reach 85,381 - a 40 per cent increase - by 2030.

The increase in the numbers admitted to hospital following a fall is predicted to soar from 4,815 to 6,985 - a rise of 48 per cent - over the next 15 years.

Lancaster led the way with 1,588 ambulance call-outs for falls involving over-65s in 2014/15, Preston was second with 1,188, while South Ribble had 1,015 and Chorley 957.

Emergency hospital admissions for OAP falls victims were highest in the east of the county with Hyndburn, Burnley and Rossendale significantly above the national average.

Preston and South Ribble had the fewest needing treatment while, conversely, both districts saw a dramatic rise in the number of falls proving fatal.

A North West Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Our urgent care development team has undertaken some collaborative work with Lancashire County Council in identifying the most prolific callers and even entering some care homes and looking at what could be done to educate care home staff in changing the current culture that exists to call an ambulance whenever a fall occurs.

“We are also actively engaging with care home managers who have told us that their establishment has a ‘no lifting policy’ and therefore an ambulance must be called to carry out the lift.

“Falls are one of the most common reasons for calling 999. NWAS recognised some time ago that by working with agencies such as social services, we could help to reduce those calls by, for example, training care home staff in safe lifting techniques, or when the patient lives in their own home, making some improvements such as fitting handrails.”

Care home manager Louise Newton has welcomed the setting up of a county-wide team to look into improving staff training and also carrying out better falls-prevention work with the elderly in their own homes.

“We have a good safe moving and handling system in our home, but maybe there are others who don’t have that,” she said at Brookside Care Home in Preston Road, Bamber Bridge.

“A lot more training is needed throughout the industry to bring down the numbers of ambulances called out unnecessarily. I would welcome a new body to look at this in a joined-up way.”