NSW falling behind with no falls prevention strategy as hospitalisation and death toll increases says new report

A physiotherapist treating an ageing male

NSW falling behind with no falls prevention strategy as hospitalisation and death toll increases says new report

A physiotherapist treating an ageing male

Falls resulting in hospitalisation in people over 65 in NSW have increased 60 per cent in a decade, a white paper released yesterday by the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission revealed. 

The white paper titled ‘Falls Prevention in NSW’ has detailed the cost to the NSW health system is expected to grow to $1.09 billion by 2041, the result of approximately 60,300 falls projected to occur in that year. The report has also shown deaths from falls will increase by 50 per cent by 2041. 

Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Vice-President and Gerontological Physiotherapist Rik Dawson has extensive experience in providing physiotherapy services to ageing populations, and urges the government to invest more into physiotherapy-led falls prevention programs. 

Physiotherapy-led falls prevention programs can reduce the risk of falls by 55 per cent, saving up to $3.9 billion annually in health spending if implemented across aged care facilities. 

“Physiotherapy-led falls prevention programs are a key ask of the APA as falls are the leading cause of preventable death in older people, and the report’s recommendations support intervention from physiotherapists as one of the ways to reduce falls and the impact of falls on the patient, their families and the community,” Mr Dawson said. 

“The report also calls for national action on falls, which we fully support, as well as better funding for falls prevention programs which we know will have positive impacts on reducing falls and improving patient care,” he said.

Not only are falls a concern in metropolitan areas, but have steadily increased in rural, regional and remote (RRR) locations across NSW over the past decade, with the Hunter New England Local Health District (LHDs) having a higher incidence of fall-related hospital admissions in 2021 than all but one Greater Sydney LHDs. 

The findings in the report are another example of the disparities faced by those in RRR locations, with more attention needing to be placed on improving access to healthcare in these areas. 

“Falls are a growing issue for ageing Australians and I see a lot of ageing patients who have suffered from falls at the residential care facilities I visit,” Mr Dawson said. 

“As people get older, the risk of falls increases due to a combination of age-related changes in the body. Physiotherapy plays a critical role by providing tailored exercise, education, advice around gait aids such as walking sticks and frames, whilst working with other allied health professionals to reduce the risk of falling,” he said. 

NSW regional and rural LHDs saw an increase of at least 70 per cent in fall-related hospital admissions over the previous decade to 2021.

The report also identified key factors that affect timely and effective treatment for falls, with those in RRR communities facing more hurdles than most.  

The full report and its nine recommendations for reducing falls risks and improving patient care can be found here


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