Falls prevention research often leads to useful findings, many of which can be fairly simply implemented in home and long-term care settings to reduce falls incidence. Often, such findings are summarized in policy briefs and similar reports, in which experts draw from current research to present usable practices and guidelines for clinicians, administrators, and the lay population. Are such policy-related publications an effective way to disseminate falls prevention research? A report in the journal Age and Ageing suggests that falls reduction guidelines may recently have had such an effect in the United Kingdom, but that more can be done to improve falls reduction in care settings.
In 2007, the National Patient Safety Agency in the United Kingdom published two comprehensive reports on falls reduction. The reports analyzed more than 200,000 falls that were reported in hospitals, and offered specific advice on responding to falls as well as a summary of evidence-based practices. All health organizations working within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) were subsequently required to update their falls policies and training. The authors randomly chose 50 organizations from all NHS hospitals in England and Wales, and reviewed the extent to which these 2007 publications influenced policies and practice.
Among the organizations that responded to the study, all hospitals that did not have a falls reduction policy before the reports had since added such a policy, and reported that risk assessment practices and bedrail policies had improved overall. The authors found that policies on clinical care after a fall were still lacking in many facilities, however, and that other areas of policy could still be improved. The study suggests that falls reduction policy can affect clinical practice, but that information and recommendations alone are insufficient to inform practice.