Bute professional’s falls project up for health award

Dr Christine McArthur, NHS Highland's coordinator for the prevention and management of falls.
Dr Christine McArthur, NHS Highland's coordinator for the prevention and management of falls.

A project led by a healthcare professional from Bute has been named as a finalist at this year’s UK-wide Advancing Healthcare Awards.

The ‘Making the Right Call for a Fall’ programme, led by Dr Christine McArthur and Lynne Siddiqui, helps people who suffer falls being cared for at home rather than in hospital.

Their work on developing ‘pathways’ for falls has placed them among the healthcare industry’s innovators and rising stars and put them on the prestigious 2016 awards shortlist.

The initiative was one of 150 entries made for this year’s awards, which are sponsored by all four UK governments and organisations including Public Health England.

Christine, NHS Highland’s coordinator, prevention and management of falls, and Lynne, the health board’s lead community physiotherapist, were both nominated for the Scottish Government’s award category for ‘improving quality: measuring and demonstrating impact’.

The winners will be announced at a celebration lunch at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, in London on Friday 15 April. Guests include all shortlisted teams and their guests, leaders of the professional bodies and membership organisations, senior people in healthcare and sponsors and their guests.

Dr McArthur said: “It’s fantastic. I feel really honoured that our work is up for this award.”

Christine and Lynne’s work is important because falling at home is a distressingly frequent event for many older people in Scotland, with around half of the over-80s experiencing a fall in any one year and about a third of over 65-year-olds.

And there are significant cost implications because when an ambulance is called to someone who has fallen, the chances are he or she will be taken to hospital even when it may not be necessary.

The initial project work in Argyll and Bute aimed to bring community and service providers together to design solutions that work locally.

A number of sites were testing a system where ambulance teams had a single point of access to integrated health and social care services.

The latest results have proved promising, with pathways developed and established in Inverness, Mid and East Ross, Nairn, and Caithness. All other districts in Highland will be implementing their own local pathways within the next three months.

“Across all areas there has been extensive training for all community staff to increase awareness and knowledge in the prevention and management of falls in older adults living at home,” Lynne added.

“This combined with close working with the ambulance service has demonstrated both a reduction in the number of falls in the community and a reduction in the number of people requiring conveyance to hospital in the test sites.”

The way the system works is that after a fall, an ambulance is called and the crew then make an assessment whether the person who fell needs to go to hospital. They also give the patient a full check-up. After the ambulance visit and as part of the pathway, the patient then receives a full follow-up screening and risk assessment, and a plan for ongoing support in the community is tailored to his or her circumstances.

Dr McArthur said: “The Scottish Ambulance Service crews are highly trained and skilled and very competent in assessing and people who have undergone falls. What the pathway does is gives them assurance that the person they assessed will be followed up at home by community teams.”

Depending on the individual’s wishes, allied health professional (AHP) support within the community can then come from befrienders, sensory impairment teams, dementia specialists, district nursing, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, independent providers and the third sector, as well as the patient’s own GP and social worker.

“The idea is that through working with the community teams we shift the balance of care,” Dr McArthur added, “so we get our AHPs and community nursing teams supporting people in their own homes.

“Most people would want to be at home really, if they could.”