The Winchester falls project: a randomised controlled trial of secondary prevention of falls in older people*

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Abstract

Background

the mortality and morbidity of falls in older people is significant, with recurrent fallers being at an increased risk. The most effective way to reduce falls in this group is not clear.

Objective

to determine the effectiveness of two interventions, one based in primary care and the other in secondary care, at preventing further falls in recurrent fallers.

Design

cluster randomised controlled trial.

Participants

sixty-five years or over, living in the community, two or more falls in the previous year and not presenting to an emergency department with index fall.

Setting

Mid Hampshire, UK.

Intervention

eighteen general practices were randomly allocated to one of three groups. The primary care group was assessed by nurses in the community, using a risk factor review and subsequent targeted referral to other professionals. The secondary care group received a multi-disciplinary assessment in a day hospital followed by identified appropriate interventions. The control group received usual care. Follow-up was for 1 year.

Results

five hundred and five participants were recruited. Follow-up was completed in 83% (421/505). The proportion of participants who fell again was significantly lower in the secondary care group (75%, 158/210) compared to the control group [84%, 133/159, adjusted odds ratio (OR) 0.52 (95% CI 0.35–0.79) P=0.002]. The primary care group showed similar results to the control group [87%, 118/136, adjusted OR 1.17 (95% CI 0.57–2.37) P=0.673].

Conclusion

a structured multi-disciplinary assessment of recurrent fallers significantly reduced the number experiencing further falls, but a community-based nurse-led assessment with targeted referral to other professionals did not.

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