WDHB gets behind April Falls Month

4 April 2017

April marks the start of the annual April Falls campaign, which the Health Quality & Safety Commission (HQSC), district health boards and other of health service providers promote for the good of everybody.

National clinical lead for the HQSC’s Reducing Harm from Falls Programme and Whanganui DHB director of nursing, patient safety and quality Sandy Blake says April Falls Month is a good time to focus on the problem of falls and the harm that falls can cause – especially for older people.

“Falls can have a major impact on a person’s life whether they happen at home, in the community or in hospital,” Mrs Blake says.

“In 2015, close to 220,000 people over the age of 50 made a claim to ACC for an injury related to a fall, and nearly 26,000 were admitted to hospital because of a fall. These are big numbers, and represent pain, immobility and inconvenience for a large number of people.

“The effects of a fall on older people are most serious. Only half of those over the age of 80 who survive a hip fracture will walk unaided again, and many will not regain their former degree of mobility.

“Between 10 and 20 percent will be admitted to aged residential care as a result of the fracture. Very sadly, 27 percent of those over 80 will die within a year of their hip fracture.”

“But there is good news. Between 1 July 2013 and 31 December 2016, there were 85 fewer in-hospital falls resulting in fractured hips - important results because hip fracture is the most common serious fall-related injury in those over 80 years old.”

To help reduce falls in the home, ACC has a simple checklist to identify hazards: ACC falls checklist for the home.

Simple things to keep yourself safe around the home include checking you have non-slip rugs or they are secured to the floor, keeping cords and wires away from walkways or taped down and ensuring stairs and walkways are well-lit with easy to grip handrails.

Background: Falls in people aged 50 and over

  • In 2015, 217,000 people aged 50 and over had one or more ACC claims for a fall-related injury accepted.
  • This was a significant increase from 170,000 claims in 2011. Claims varied 1.7-fold between DHB.
  • Of people aged 85+, 26 percent had at least one ACC claim due to a fall in 2015
  • This equated to 58 ACC claims per day among those aged 85+.
  • 25,800 people aged 50+ were admitted to hospital with a fall in 2015. Older people and women had higher admission rates.
  • Admission rates increased significantly with age: those aged 85 and over had 8 times more admissions than those aged 65–74 and 16 times more admissions than those aged 50–64 years.
  • 20,100 people admitted to hospital with a fall stayed more than a day.
  • This was 78 percent of all people attending hospital after a fall.

Data is from the Commission’s Atlas of Healthcare Variation – a website that uses maps, graphs, tables and words to show differences in health care in New Zealand by district health board. The falls Atlas domain was updated in March 2017: www.hqsc.govt.nz/atlas/falls/.

On Tuesday 11 April, a falls stand will be open in Whanganui Hospital’s front entrance. When possible, staff will be present to provide information and answer any questions people may have.


Age Concern Wanganui is delighted with the level of interest older people are showing in the new Steady As You Go fitness programme.
The focus of the once-a-week, hour-long class is strength and balance with stretching, sitting and standing exercises, weights on ankles, and eye exercises to improve people’s peripheral vision. Having the opportunity to socialise and form friendships is an added bonus.
Steady As You Go was developed and implemented 14 years ago by Age Concern Otago who are believed to have enrolled hundreds of participants during that time.
Aware of how effective it’s been in helping to reduce falls among the elderly, ACC contracted Age Concern New Zealand to pilot Steady As You Go in Whanganui and Tauranga where it’s creating a lot of interest in both cities.
Whanganui District Health Board director of nursing and Health Quality and Safety Commission clinical lead for the Reducing Harm From Falls programme Sandy Blake says she was delighted Whanganui was chosen for the pilot.
“Anything we can do to encourage our older members of the community to keep up their strength and flexibility is worth celebrating,” Mrs Blake says. Besides the pain that falls cause, they are debilitating for all age groups.
“Age Concern Wanganui and I view the Steady As You Go programme as the fence at the top of the cliff – a programme we know is enabling some participants to improve their balance and confidence.

To help prevent themselves and others from falling while out walking, Steady As You Go members are being encouraged to call the Whanganui District Council to report uneven footpaths. Anyone interested in joining Steady As You Go, is asked to call Age Concern Wanganui at 06 345 1799.


For further media comment please contact WDHB communications manager Sue Campion on 021 246 8126 or 06 348 3170.