Ambulances over-stretched by OAP falls in Lancaster

North West Ambulance Service.
North West Ambulance Service.

Lancaster has the most ambulance call-outs for falls involving OAPs and figures are set to soar even higher.

Our district topped a table with paramedics attending 1,588 incidents where over 65s had a fall in 2014/15.

A countywide task force is now being set up to tackle the problem of over-stretched ambulance crews being called out scores of times every week to lift elderly fall victims back into bed.

This alarming rise in falls involving pensioners could lead to a major shake-up in care home services in Lancashire.

Paramedics attended more than 15,000 falls incidents in the county in 2014/15, with almost three-quarters (71%) 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.

Preston was second in the league table with 1,188, while South Ribble had 1,015 and Chorley 957.

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.

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

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

Lancaster city councillor Margaret Pattison, cabinet member for older people, said: “My son works for North West Ambulance, and a lot of calls they get are for people falling out of bed.

“We don’t want to block hospital beds up with people being taken in after a fall and then being sent home straight away.

“We will have to go back to the drawing board and try to get a list of care homes in this area and find out what training they do.

“A lot of them have the equipment. My mum is in The Sands on Morecambe promenade and they use a hoist to lift people back into bed.”

Care home manager Rod Taylor, who runs Thornton Lodge and The Alders homes in Morecambe, said his staff are trained to deal with falls so generally ambulances do not need to be called.

“I think staff training is so important,” said Mr Taylor.

“Manual handling is important too and to make sure people are looked after and managed properly, and that their accommodation is appropriate for their needs.

“We put a lot of resources into staff training and we have lifting aids.”

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

A North West Ambulance Service spokesman said they wanted to educate care home staff in changing the culture of calling an ambulance whenever a fall occurs.

Meanwhile ambulance crews have been slapped with speeding fines totalling £175,000 after being clocked on 999 calls.

The North West Ambulance Service was hit with 1,750 separate claims over a five-year period, the majority of which were successfully appealed.

Health bosses have called for the automatic exemption on emergency vehicles to be better enforced.

Some trust staff are spending 40 hours a month appealing against the fines.

A spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service said: “We work closely with the police to prevent the majority of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) being issued.

“In recent years the Trust has fitted blue lights to the registration plate of vehicles so that if it triggers a camera, the police can clearly see that it is being driven in accordance with the law to attend an emergency and will therefore stop a notice from being sent out.”

Ambulance trusts in England received 23,227 speeding tickets between 2009 and 2014.