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New co-ordinated falls service launched in Belfast


At the launch of the Belfast community falls prevention and management service are (from left): Dr Alan Stout, GP lead and chair of East Belfast Integrated Care Partnership, Ciaran McKenna, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Dr Sloan Harper, Director of Integrated Care at the Health and Social Care Board and Barbara Walker, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

A new co-ordinated service in Belfast, aimed at reducing the risk of frail older people falling and to help elderly patients safely stay at home after a fall, instead of being admitted to hospital, has been launched.

The Community Falls Prevention and Management Service – spearheaded by the Belfast Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) – is a joint initiative with a number of partners including the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT) and the Public Health Agency (PHA).

With access to funding, provided by the Belfast Local Commissioning Group and PHA , the initiative has been introduced by the ICP, with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and other partners providing a range of medical, community, voluntary and social services.

Dr Alan Stout, GP lead and Chairman of the East Belfast Integrated Care Partnership, explains the service:
“The Community Falls Prevention and Management Service is an excellent example of a truly joined up and innovative way of working that will deliver seamless care; provide a better experience for patients, their families and carers; and reduce pressure on hospital services. The service is designed to enable health and social care providers to work more closely together to keep people well in local communities and to better share information to plan safe, high quality care around each individual’s needs.”

Falls are very common in the elderly and are a serious cause of distress among patients and their families. In addition, a fear of falls can have a devastating impact, leading to reduced activity, and social isolation.

Barbara Walker, from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said the new service focuses on elderly patients who have fallen at home and are attended to by the NIAS.

GP Dr Alan Stout (left), chair of the East Belfast Integrated Care Partnership with members of the Belfast falls team, Margaret McAdoo, specialist nurse, Chris McKenna, physiotherapist, Mark Brierley, clinic support officer with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, and Natalie Irwin, occupational therapist.

“Paramedics can now make a referral to the BHSCT Falls service, and an appropriate member of the team will contact the patient/family member within 48 hours to provide support, advice and appropriate intervention.

“They will also identify and address risks that could lead to further falls and co-ordinate any referrals to other medical services including GPs, allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, and community and voluntary services,” she said.
Ciaran McKenna, from NIAS, explained the benefits of working in partnership.

“With in excess of 20,000 calls per year NIAS were extremely pleased to have helped establish this pathway and it demonstrates the benefits of collaborative working. This service now means that NIAS have access to a regional falls pathway which offers patients services more appropriate to their needs and enhances their experience as they are able to remain at home instead of being transported to the Emergency Department,” he said.

Alan Marsden, Deputy Commissioning Lead for Belfast said: “The Belfast Local Commissioning Group welcomes this development and commends the ICP, NIAS and other stakeholders for working together to make it happen.”

Sarah Reid, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer at the PHA, said: “A service like this will help improve the lives of older people who are more susceptible to falls.

“By taking action early, examining and addressing risk factors, we can help reduce the risk of further falls and help older people live independently and prevent unnecessary time spent in hospital or the need for placements in nursing and residential homes.”

Other partners involved in the initiative include Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), Bryson Charitable Group.