Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing falls in hospitals

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 26 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i251
  1. Frances Healey, head of patient safety insight
  1. NHS England, London SE1 6lH, UK
  1. frances.healey{at}

Tackling risk factors should be a clinical priority

Around a million patients fall in hospitals in the United States annually, as do more than 250 000 in the United Kingdom1—numbers that dwarf almost all other problems with patients’ safety. The consequences of hip fractures and subdural haematomas in people already ill enough to need to be in hospital can be catastrophic,2 soft tissue injuries can result in extensive bruising that is almost as painful for families and healthcare staff to observe as for the patient to experience, and even a “no harm” fall can delay a return to independence.1

Despite the scale of the problem, high quality research on preventing falls in acute hospitals has been lacking.3 4 In a linked paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.h6781), Barker and colleagues report on the largest randomised controlled trial to date, encompassing 24 acute hospital wards in Australia and applying selected “6-PACK” interventions (“falls alert” signs, walking aid within reach, toileting routine, bathroom supervision, low-low bed, and bed/chair alarms) to patients assessed by a risk scoring …

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