Falkirk Falls Project Reduces Injuries and Saves Money

An award winning falls prevention project in the Falkirk area has been shown not only to significantly reduce the number of falls people experience at home but has also save millions of pounds in health and social care costs over the last ten years.

The Falkirk Falls Management Project, a joint initiative between NHS Forth Valley and Falkirk Council, was set up in 2002 to reduce falls by providing early assessment, advice, support and treatment to older people who had fallen at home. This includes assessing each person’s individual needs and circumstances, providing treatment such as physiotherapy, assisting in getting aids and any necessary adaptions made to their home as quickly as possible and making referrals to other services such as optical and chiropody services, if required.

Staff were are also able to provide information, reassurance and advice to older people who often experience anxiety and feelings of isolation after a fall.

While feedback for the project was very positive and staff could clearly see the benefits for individual patients and their families they were keen to assess the overall economic benefits for both organisations involved. A detailed evaluation was therefore carried out to identify the potential cost savings over the last eleven years.

By estimating the number of falls avoided and calculating the cost of home visits and assessments it was concluded that the project had saved up to £10.7m over an eleven year period. It was estimated that more than 6200 falls had potentially been avoided with an estimated cost per fall of around £1700. This took into account the costs involved in providing GP, ambulance, A&E and hospital inpatient services along with costs associated with follow up support in a nursing or care home.

Cost of home visits were estimated at £33,000 and subsequent interventions and referrals at £96,000 per person for the whole period. These were calculated by taking into account the costs of carrying out the home visits by Falkirk Council’s Mobile Emergency Care Service (MECS) and the subsequent referrals to the Falls Management Clinic at Falkirk Community Hospital for multidisciplinary assessment and therapy. Each person referred to the ReACH team has four one hour assessments at home and around 50% of the people the team see are referred to the Falls Management Clinic for further assessment and therapy. Although the evaluation shows that the Falls Programme has clearly delivered significant saving in monetary terms, staff involved were keen to emphasis the addition physical and psychological benefits for individuals and their families.

Jillian Rae, Head of NHS Forth Valley’s ReACH team, explained: “People who fall often experience a loss of confidence and their mobility and balance can also be badly affected. This can lead to loneliness and depression as well as increased dependency and an overall poorer quality of life.

By providing the right support and advice early on we can not only prevent further accidents and injuries but also help older people remain in their own homes for longer and ultimately enjoy healthier and happier lives.”

Councillor Linda Gow, Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for Health and Social Care said: “We’re tremendously proud of what this project has achieved and the difference it has made to older people across the Falkirk Council area.  It’s also great to show the major significant savings it has delivered for both organisations.”

The work of the Falkirk Falls Management Project was also recently recognised at a national level when the team won the ‘Working Better, Working Together’ award at the Scottish Social Services Council Care Accolades, which showcases the very best of the care sector across the country.

The award recognises collaborative practice that is making a difference to the communities they serve and the individuals who use their services.