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New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) calls for health care professionals to ask older people about falls during routine GP appointments, when they attend hospital and during home visits.
The updated quality standard has been published to help prevent falls in older people as research suggests around 30 per cent of those aged 65 and over fall at least once a year.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: "We know that prevention is better than cure when it comes to falls, particularly in older people.
"Asking older people about falls on a regular basis will identify those who are most at risk. Through this simple intervention, those people can then be referred to the right health care professional or service to stop them falling in the future."
The update to the quality standard says older people should be asked whether they have had falls in the last year, or consider themselves to be at risk of falling. This could include asking patients whether they ever lose their balance or feel unsteady on their feet.
If an older person is then deemed to be at risk, health care professionals should refer the older person to the appropriate service.
Dr Victoria Welsh, GP and specialist committee member, says that whilst falls may result in serious injury, such as a hip fracture, they may also be the first indication of an underlying health issue.
She added: "Falls in later life are burdensome for individuals, their families and communities. This quality standard prioritises the need to identify those at risk of falls, and assess and manage their associated factors so that we can prevent falls from happening in the first place."
While most falls do not result in serious injury, statistics show that around 255,000 older people are admitted to hospitals in England due to falls. Estimates suggest that falls cost the NHS more than £2.3bn a year.
Professor Cameron Swift, emeritus professor from Kings College London School of Medicine and specialist committee member, said: "We recognise that regular questions about falls may seem intrusive or repetitive, but older people often think episodes of falling or unsteadiness unimportant, or that to raise them could threaten future independence.
"By contrast, effective measures are now known to reduce the risk of falls, maintain independence and promote ongoing health. It’s vital, therefore, that these are offered to those who need them."
The updated quality standard also outlines that older people who are deemed to be at risk of falling are offered a multifactorial falls risk assessment, and people flagged as being at an increased risk should be given a managed intervention individual to their needs.
The standard, which contains three new quality statements, updates the original publication from 2015.
For more information go to: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs86