Calls to reduce ward risks for elderly

There is concern over the number of 'adverse; incidents happening in elderly wards. Picture: John Devlin
There is concern over the number of 'adverse; incidents happening in elderly wards. Picture: John Devlin
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ALMOST 45,000 dementia-related “adverse events” were recorded in Lothian hospital wards over the last six years, new figures reveal.

The NHS Lothian figures show more than 3000 elderly patients suffered falls while being cared for in geriatric or dementia units in 2016, with more than 1000 leading to patient harm.

Released under Freedom of Information laws, the data shows a total of 44,890 such incidents were recorded in the Lothians in the six-year period.

Adverse events, which involve a patient being harmed or being put at risk of harm, range from falls and pressure ulcers to absconsion and being hit by nursing equipment.

The figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, were branded “alarming” by Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs.

Mr Briggs, the party’s public and mental health spokesman, said: “These very alarming figures indicate just how much pressure elderly care wards are under in Lothian.

“I am particularly concerned that there are at least 3000 examples each year of elderly patients in hospital in Lothian suffering falls and that a significant proportion of these falls are causing moderate or major harm to patients.

“I pay tribute to the staff working in elderly care wards across the region but it is clear that NHS Lothian needs to look again at whether staffing is sufficient in every ward in order to reduce the number of adverse incidents.

“It should also set out additional and specific plans to reduce the number of falls which can cause so much harm to elderly patients.”

However, Dr David 
Farquharson, NHS Lothian medical director, said he was confident elderly patients were receiving appropriate care.

He said: “We actively encourage reporting of any adverse events across NHS Lothian and have robust methods for monitoring, recording and following up. Our aim is to learn from these events so that we can improve quality of care, and so we can reduce harm to our patients. We have extensive training available for staff, including around handling violence and aggression, and we have dedicated ‘dementia champions’ to support staff and patients across our services.

“We aim to ensure that appropriate care will be available as and when it is needed, and that we have safe staffing levels at all times. We are confident this level of care is being achieved within NHS Lothian.”

The health board added NHS Lothian staff reported all falls within elderly care and dementia wards, which they said not all boards do. They also noted its figures included incidents with no known adverse effect – an 
incident where no follow-up care is required – in its recorded adverse events, which it said could account for the high number.