Standard 10: Preventing Falls and Harm from Falls
Graham Bedford
Program Director
April 2013
Why have a Standard about reducing falls?

Falls are one of the largest causes of harm in care for older
patients (> 65 years)

Acute illness, frailty, delirium and unfamiliar surroundings
are significant falls risk factors in acute care

There is good evidence that a multifactorial approach to
preventing falls should be a part of routine care

There is good evidence that the rate and intensity of falls
can be reduced by developing and implementing
individualised falls prevention plans of care based on the
findings of falls screening or assessment
Why have a Standard about reducing falls?

A range of standard precautionary strategies should be in place
for all older people in care.

This approach is based on good practice and the assumption that
all older people in hospitals are at risk of falling.

Assessment (or detailed screening) will identify factors
contributing to a patient’s risk of falling, and can be addressed in
individualised care plans in addition to the standard precautionary
strategies.

Combining standard and individualised interventions, targeting
multiple risk factors, is a multifactorial approach. There is good
evidence on the effectiveness of multifactorial interventions.

However, higher acuity may require more intensive long-term
interventions.
The Standard

Clinical leaders and senior managers of a health service
organisation implement systems to prevent patient falls and
minimise harm from falls.

Clinicians and other members of the workforce use the falls
prevention and harm minimisation
systems.
The intention of the Standard is to
reduce the incidence of patient falls
and minimise harm from falls.
Four criteria to achieve the Standard
1.
Governance and systems
•
2.
Screening and assessing risks of falls and harm from falling
•
3.
Patients on presentation, during admission, and when clinically
indicated, are screened for risk of a fall and the potential to be harmed
from falls.
Preventing falls and harm from falling
•
4.
Health service organisations have governance structures and
systems in place to reduce falls and minimise harm from falls.
Prevention strategies are in place for patients at risk of falling.
Communicating with patients and carers
•
Patients and carers are informed of the identified risks from falls and
are engaged in the development of a falls prevention plan.
1. Governance and systems for prevention of
falls
10.1: Developing, implementing and reviewing policies, procedures and/or
protocols, including the associated tools, that are based on the
current national guidelines for preventing falls and harm from falls.

Why?
• Systems for falls prevention and harm minimisation need to be
described in all facility documents and be evidence-based
• The systems need organisational support and executive and
clinical leadership to be successful

What?
• Policies, procedures and protocols that are consistent with the
Falls Prevention Guidelines (10.1.1)
• Policies and supporting documents are available to the
workforce (10.1.2)
1. Governance and systems for prevention of
falls
10.2: Using a robust organisation-wide system of reporting, investigation
and change management to respond to falls incidents

Why?
• Robust clinical governance frameworks and processes for
evaluation, audit and feedback are important for maintaining
and improving falls prevention systems.

What?
• Falls incidents reports, benchmarking, data sets, reporting
(10.2.1)
• Use of administrative and clinical data sets (10.2.2)
• Information provided to the executive (10.2.3)
• Action taken to improve falls frequency and severity (10.2.4)
1. Governance and systems for prevention of
falls
10.3: Undertaking quality improvement activities to address safety risks
and ensure the effectiveness of the falls prevention system

Why?
• Responding organisationally to falls data, incidents, risk
registers and risks identified through other means will maintain
and improve system effectiveness

What?
• Evidence of actions taken to address risks (registers detailing
outcomes, quality improvement plans, workforce and patient
communications) (10.3.1)
1. Governance and systems for prevention of
falls
10.4: Implementing falls prevention plans and effective management of falls

Why?
• Plans need to be implemented to be effective and resources
are required to reduce the risk of falls and subsequent harm

What?
• Individualised plans are implemented, equipment inventories
are maintained and clinical use audited, procurement review
systems for equipment and devices are evidenced (10.4.1)
2. Screening and assessing risks of falls and
harm from falling
10.5: Using a best practice-based tool to screen patients on presentation,
during admission and when clinically indicated for the risk of falls

Why?
• Screening patients with a screening tool or standard screening process
identifies patients with a risk of falling or suffering injury from falling.
• Sophisticated screening can also identify individual falls risk factors.

What?
• Screening policies, procedures and protocols are accessible to staff
(10.5.1)
• Audits of screening compliance and recording of screening outcomes
which are accessible to all staff providing care (10.5.2)
• Evidence of actions taken to increase the number of patients screened
for falls risk (10.5.3)
2. Screening and assessing risks of falls and
harm from falling
10.6: Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment for patients identified
at risk of falling in initial screening processes

Why?
• Assessment will identify falls risk factors specific to the patient,
and which can form the basis of an individualised care plan

What?
• Assessment policies, procedures and protocols are accessible
to staff (10.6.1)
• Audits of assessment compliance and recording of assessment
outcomes which are accessible to all staff providing care
(10.6.2)
• Evidence of actions taken to increase the number of at risk
patients assessed for falls risk (10.6.3)
3. Preventing falls and harm from falling
10.7: Developing and implementing a multifactorial falls prevention plan to
address risks identified in the assessment
Why?
• Targeting individual falls risk factors reduces the rate of falls
and the harm experienced from them

What?
• Intervention policies, procedures and protocols are accessible
to staff (10.7.1)
• Care plan accessible to all care staff, audits of care plans and
falls data reported(10.7.2)
• Actions taken to increase the number, and effectiveness, of falls
reduction interventions (10.7.3)
3. Preventing falls and harm from falling
10.8: Patients at risk of falling are referred to appropriate services, where
available, as part of the discharge process

Why?
• Falls risk is increased for one month after discharge, so
interventions to reduce the risk of falls and subsequent
harm should be included in discharge planning for
patients identified as having a falls risk

What?
• Audits of clinical records for discharge planning, and
referrals to non-acute health services (10.8.1)
4. Communicating with patients and carers
10.9: Informing patients and carers about the risk of falls, and falls
prevention strategies. (Developmental)

Why?
• Relevant and usable information allows patients and
carers to participate in falls prevention discussions and
decisions

What?
• Materials designed for patient and carer information and
in a range of formats and languages (as appropriate)
• Audits of information provided to patients and feedback
from patients on information provided
4. Communicating with patients and carers
10.10: Developing falls prevention plans in partnership with patients and
carers (Developmental)

Why?
• Effectiveness of care plans can be improved if informed
by patient preferences, circumstances and interests

What?
• Audits of clinical record and care plans to identify patient
and carer input
Links to Standard 1, Element 1.18.1, Patients and carers are
partners in the planning for their treatment
What is the difference between screening and
assessment?

Falls screening
• Generally screening is a brief process of estimating a person’s risk of
falling. Usually it involves reviewing only a few items (such as previous
fall, mental status, vision, frequent toileting, mobility). It should occur as
soon as practicable after admission (and ideally before).
• Using clinical judgement is at least as good as using a screening tool.
However, a tool can form part of routine clinical management which
can prompt the process. A standardised format for recording screen
outcomes can prompt and systematise clinical judgement screening.
• It is critical that screening outcomes are routinely recorded in the
medical record for use by all those involved in the patient’s care.
What is the difference between screening and
assessment?

Falls assessment
• Generally assessment is a more detailed process than screening and
is used to identify underlying falls risk factors for patients that exceed
the screening threshold. Assessment tools vary in the number of risk
factors included and can include gait instability, lower-limb weakness,
urinary incontinence or frequency, previous falls, agitation/confusion,
prescription of ‘culprit’ drugs.
• While no one existing falls assessment tool is recommended (or
validated) for use in all hospital settings, it is preferable to adapt
existing validated tools.
• The critical issue is that assessment outcomes are routinely recorded
in the medical record and form the basis for a care plan which is acted
upon.
What is the difference between screening and
assessment?

Screening vs. assessment
• Some screening processes are sufficiently detailed to provide
information about intervention strategies. This can be the case
in smaller facilities where all patients are routinely screened /
assessed.
• If separate screening and assessment are required by the local
policy, then the outcomes of both will need to be recorded in the
medical record and available to other healthcare professionals
providing care to the patient.
• Generally re-assessment will occur again when there has been
a fall, a change in health or functional status, when the
environment is changed or at discharge.
What about patients < 65 years old?
• Falls can occur at all ages
• However the frequency and severity of falls, and subsequent
harm, increases significantly at 65 years and older
• When considering indigenous Australians, “older people”
commonly refers to people aged over 50 years
• Younger people can be at risk of falling, and experiencing harm,
because of
• a history of falls
• neurological conditions
• cognitive problems
• depression
• visual impairment
• other medical conditions that alter functional ability.
• Health services will need to identify younger people at risk of
falling and ways of mitigating the risk
Day procedure and paediatric services
Some health service organisations, such as day procedure
services (including fertility clinics, endoscopy centres and
cardiac catheterisation laboratories) need to ensure that
patients do not fall but do not require the significant system
of falls prevention envisaged in the Standard.
The majority of falls in paediatric patients are associated
with normal stages of childhood development and agerelated behaviour. Therefore the Standard should be
applied flexibly in paediatric settings.
Summary

Purpose of the Standard is to reduce the incidence of
patient falls and minimise harm from falls.

There is good evidence that identifying and responding to
patients at risk of falling can reduce falls and subsequent
harm.

Health services need to demonstrate that they
systematically identify and respond to falls risk, and have
standard falls prevention strategies in place as well as
individualised care plans.

Developing patient / carer awareness of falls risk, and
developing care plans in partnership with them, can
improve adherence to care plans and improve health
outcomes.
Resources

Standard 10 Safety and Quality Improvement Guide

Hospital Accreditation Workbook

Preventing Falls and Harm from Falls in Older People:
Best Practice Guidelines for Australian Hospitals 2009

Guidebook for Preventing Falls and Harm from Falls in
Older People: Australian Hospitals 2009

Implementation Guide for Preventing Falls and Harm from
Falls in Older People 2009

Fact sheets for patients and carers, support staff, nurses,
health managers, doctors, allied health professionals

www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/falls-prevention/
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Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care