New NICE guidance calls for older people to be asked about falls during routine appointments

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) calls for health professionals to ask older people about falls during routine assessments and reviews with health and social care practitioners.

The rationale behind this new guidance is a “history of falls in the past year is the single more important risk factor for falls and is a predictor of further falls”. As health and social care practitioners have regular contact with older people across a wide range of settings (including in their homes) they are best placed to ask questions about falls and review or identify older people who may be at risk of falling. The guidance says that if a person is at risk of falling, they “can be referred to, or advised to see, a healthcare professional or service to further assess the risk”.

Research has shown that around 30 per cent of those aged 65 and over fall at least once a year and statistics indicate that they cost the NHS more than £2.3bn a year. The updated quality standard has been published to help prevent falls in older people and research would suggest that identifying who is at risk of falls will help to prevent them in the future. Nevertheless, regular questions about falls may seem intrusive and tiresome to people and the benefits of this new guidance may seem positive, but only time will tell as to whether it will work effectively. What it will do is make older people think about any falling or episodes of unsteadiness and raise it to a health professional, who can help to maintain their independence for as long as possible.

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