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Protect yourself and others against trips and falls this winter

09 December 2019

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is urging people to take precautions to minimise the risk themselves and others suffering a trip or a fall this winter.

By undertaking some simple checks, everyone, and especially vulnerable older people, can ensure they are safer and less likely to require the assistance of the ambulance service.

Ambulance crews attend thousands of calls to low-level falls each year with the category making up in the region of 15% of all calls attended. Older people are particularly vulnerable with around 80% of falls patients over the age of 65.

When a patient suffers a fall, ambulance crews will assess whether hospital treatment is required but can also refer patients to specialist falls services.

Being aware of potential hazards can make homes safer. Although some of the points below may seem obvious, they can be easy to overlook. By running through the list below for yourself or a vulnerable relative or friend, the risk of falling can be reduced.

Ask yourself these questions: (Source Age UK)

• Do you have good lighting, especially on the stairs?
• Are stairs and steps clutter free?
• Do you have handrails on both sides of the stairs?
• Do you have a nightlight in the bedroom or a torch by the bed in case you need to get up in the night?
• Are your floors clear of trailing wires, wrinkled or fraying carpets or anything else that you might trip or slip on?
• Do you have a handrail in the bath and a non-slip bath mat?
• Do you always use a step ladder to reach high places? Always ask someone to help you if you’re using a ladder, never stand on a chair.
• Do you keep your garden paths clear and free from moss?
• Does your pet wear a collar with a bell? It’s important to be aware of where they are when you’re moving about.

With colder temperatures now upon us, people are also being reminded to take particular care in icy conditions. SECAmb typically sees an increase in slips and falls during colder weather and people are urged to always wear appropriate shoes.

SECAmb Paramedic and lead for falls, Vicky Kypta said: “When someone suffers a fall it can significantly impact on their quality of life. The incident can go beyond the fact that we may attend and a patient may need further treatment in hospital. Falls can damage confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence. When an older person suffers a fall there can be devastating effects to their long and short-term health.

“Ambulance crews will always look to ensure patients receive additional help and where necessary refer them to specialist services but our aim is to help people avoid the need of having to call 999 in the first instance. By checking homes for slip and trip hazards, perhaps with the help of family or friends, people can significantly reduce their chance of suffering a fall.”

Further advice on falls prevention is available via the following link.

SECAmb has produced a ‘winter check list’ to help people stay safe and well this winter. Check below to see if there is anything you can do to help lessen the demand on the ambulance service and the wider NHS.

SECAmb winter check list

• Check your home medicines cabinet – is everything in date? Restock with essentials including cold remedies, pain killers, indigestion tablets and diarrhoea and constipation remedies.
• Keep up to date with any repeat prescriptions you or your family or friends need.
• If you or someone you look after is in an at-risk group – don’t forget to book a flu vaccination.
• Look out for any vulnerable friends and neighbours – what could you do to help them? Are there any hazards in their homes? Do their slippers need replacing? We attend falls to older and vulnerable people all year round.
• Wear appropriate shoes when outside, especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase in slips and trips during colder spells.
• When was the last time your vehicle was serviced? If your car is safer, so are you.
• Carry some useful items in your vehicle such as a blanket and a spade for colder and possible snowy weather.
• Wear bright coloured clothing at night. Can you be clearly seen as a pedestrian or cyclist? If walking at dusk or at night use a torch.
• Heat homes to at least 18C (65F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.
• Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights – breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections. If outside in the cold, cover your nose and mouth – especially if you have a long-term health condition which might be exacerbated by the cold air.
• Keep active when you're indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
• Wear several layers of light clothes. They trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
• 999 should only be dialed in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency.
• People who are not facing a serious emergency should make alternative arrangements such as dialing NHS 111 or seeking alternative advice from a GP or pharmacist so we can focus on those who need us most.

For further information on how to protect yourself and others this winter please click on the
following link:

When to call 999:

If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:

• Heart attack (e.g. chest pain for more than 15 minutes).
• Sudden unexplained shortness of breath.
• Heavy bleeding.
• Unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness).
• Traumatic back/spinal/neck pain.

You should also call for an ambulance if:

• You think the patient's illness or injury is life-threatening.
• You think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to the hospital.
• Moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury.
• The patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel.

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