Falls care must be integrated to cut costs, researchers warn

Treatment and rehabilitation of falls patients should be better integrated to ease the impact of a problem that costs the NHS £2bn a year, research suggests.

Falls: researchers assessed Torbay system
Falls: researchers assessed Torbay system

King’s Fund researchers analysed how costs associated with falls were incurred using data from Torbay, where patient level information has been linked together across health, community and social care.

Torbay combined data as part of a move to integrate care provided by multidisciplinary teams based around groups of general practices.

Data from 421 patients in Torbay aged 65 and over who were admitted to hospital after a fall between July and December 2010 show a sharp rise in health and social care costs for patients who suffered falls.

In the 12 months before a fall, the cost of acute hospital, community and social care for the 421 patients totalled £2.5m, the researchers found.

Costs associated with the falls themselves totalled £1.2m, and in the 12 months after the fall costs for these patients totalled £4.2m.

Of this £4.2m, £1.7m was spent on community care, a 160% rise in the cost of community care for the patients in the 12 months before their fall.

Acute hospital and social care costs rose around a third each to £1.1m and £1.4m respectively.

The researchers said the findings showed how significant costs associated with falls were.

‘For our cohort of 421 patients, more than £5m was spent on both the care associated with the fall itself and in the year following the fall,’ they wrote. ‘While these patients account for slightly more than 1% of Torbay’s over-65 population, the sums spent on their care due to the fall and over the next 12 months accounted for about 4 % of the whole annual inpatient spending and 4% of the whole local adult social care budget.’

The researchers said the findings ‘strengthen the case for an integrated response for frail older people at risk of falls’, but called for more research to assess the merits of the approach in Torbay.

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