Open visiting at Heart of England trust leads to reduction in patient falls

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust says open visiting has reduced in-patient falls

The introduction of open visiting has led to a reduction in in-patient falls at a large NHS trust.

There were 259 fewer falls recorded after open visiting was introduced in April last year at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Heartlands, Good Hope and Solihull Hospitals.

In the first quarter of 2014-15 there were 2,477 falls across the three hospitals compared with 2,218 in the same period in 2015-16, after open visiting had begun.

Heart of England believes that while other falls prevention work is playing a part, the open visiting policy has made a significant contribution to the reduction.

Deputy chief nurse Julie Tunney said the policy allows carers and loved ones to be more involved in looking after older patients and those with dementia. Visitors can assist with tasks including feeding and going to the bathroom.

She said: ‘We have seen that having that support and a familiar face, on top of expert care and support from staff – particularly for patients with dementia or delirium who can become easily confused – helps reduce the potential for falls in the acute setting.’

Ms Tunney added that when doctors and nurses are on busy ward rounds, ‘it is great that families are here to stay with patients’.

June Andrews, director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, said patients who have dementia can be more prone to falls in hospital.

‘I can give examples where I have said to someone “don’t stand because you’ve had your hip replaced”, but they forget and fall over as a result.

‘A person with dementia has difficulty adapting to new experiences. Someone they know can help with the things they find most difficult.

‘A nurse can come in and say “your dinner is here” and have to rush out. The other person can explain it at the right pace and with the right language.’

Other falls prevention work at Heart of England includes: having a falls specialist nurse leading a team of falls nurse experts, non-slip slippers and socks for patients and low beds.

Ms Tunney said trusts considering an open visiting policy should:

  • Undertake communications work to engage medics and nurses with the policy.
  • Pilot the policy in some areas of the trust.
  • Seek feedback on the pilot before introducing the policy to other parts of the trust.

Heart of England has been visited by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is introducing open visiting on March 1, and by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is piloting a scheme.


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