Elderly People, Falls Prevention

22 Sep 2003 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, representing the Minister for Health, a question regarding falls prevention in older people.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: It is estimated that 8 000 South Australians are admitted to hospital each year at a cost of $50 million. This figure does not include costs associated with loss of independence or any particular personal suffering.

It is estimated that fall-related costs will rise in this state by 50 per cent unless additional action is taken. The causes of falls are well known: loss of muscle tone, bone density, reduced strength and flexibility, reduced balance, reduced eyesight and environmental hazards leading to trips and slips, and much empirical evidence supports these causal factors.

The state government continued to claim as recently as 19 September that it has made falls prevention a ‘primary health care priority’ through the allocation of some $150 000 over four years, which equates to a mere $37 500 per annum.

I note that a report into falls prevention commissioned by the state government, authored by Mr Jerry Moller, refers to excellent material that has been put together by the New South Wales government in which it has developed best practice guidelines and strategies for prevention in hospitals, aged care facilities and in community settings, and includes a falls prevention checklist for use in the home.

The Moller document, which is now some 15 months old, having been published in June 2002, has three recommendations to this state government. These recommendations are, first, to develop specific local programs; secondly, to implement a similar policy to that of New South Wales Health; and, thirdly, to increase the level of research and training. I note that more than nine months has passed since the minister undertook to develop a state Falls Prevention Action Plan. My questions are:

1. What is the status of the action plan?

2. Will the minister consider providing any additional funding (not just $150 000 over a period of four years) for falls prevention strategies?

3. What specific strategies are to be implemented with this funding and in what setting are they to take place (community, acute or residential)?

4. Will the government consider adopting the measures promoted by New SouthWales Health rather than reinventing the wheel?

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation): I thank the honourable member for her well-researched question. My mother (aged 96) recently had a fall because of one of the reasons outlined by the honourable member. The attention she is now receiving is certainly far more acute than before she had her fall, so Human Resources are sucked up if prevention programs are not put in place at appropriate times. I understand that prevention programs are running at all levels throughout our services, but I will refer the honourable member’s questions to the Minister for Health in another place and bring back a reply, which I hope will be fuller and more complete than my anecdotal contribution.

Tuesday 11 November 2003

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (22 September).

The Hon. T.G. ROBERTS: The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

1. The draft of the South Australian Statewide Action Plan for Falls Prevention in Older People has undergone significant change in response to limited, but targeted consultation, both within the Department of Human Services (DHS), with selected individuals and groups, and as part of the recent Statewide Forum on Falls Prevention in Older People, Sure Foundations: stepping safely into the future. The outcomes are currently being incorporated into the draft action plan, which will be the subject of broad consultation in metropolitan and country regions over the next few months.

2. The statement by the honourable J.M.A. Lensink that the state government has allocated ‘some $150 000 over four years, which equates to a mere $37 500 per annum’ is not accurate. A more complete picture is as follows:

In the 2002-03 Budget, the government committed $150 000 per annum of recurrent funding for falls prevention in older people;

In the 2000-01 Budget, funding was allocated to assist with the implementation of Moving Ahead: A Strategic Plan for Human Services for Older People. A proportion of Moving Ahead budget has been ear-marked specifically for falls prevention, i.e., $35 000 in 2002-03, $150 000 in 2003-04 and $115 000 proposed for 2004-05;

$140 000 of recurrent DHS funding is allocated to the Taking Steps falls risk assessment program through metropolitan and country domiciliary care services;

DHS allocates through Health Promotion SA additional funds each year to falls prevention – approximately $150 000;

The South Australian Hospitals Safety and Quality Council provided DHS total funding of approximately $295 000 through its Falls Prevention and Harm Minimisation—Innovations Funding grant scheme, for hospital based falls prevention projects which are currently being implemented.

3. This funding is being used to implement strategies across all three settings—community, acute and residential. These strategies include:

Two systematic, multi-strategy community programs to prevent falls in older people. One of these programs is based in the Hills Mallee & Southern Regional Health Service and the other in Northern Metropolitan Community Health Services;

Funding support for the Council on the Ageing to implement Living Longer Living Stronger, a program to increase opportunities for older people to participate in strength training;

Funding for Active Ageing SA Inc to implement Stepping Out, a program which develops a network of volunteer walking group leaders and walking groups for older people;

The Royal Adelaide Hospital Hip Protector Project for frail older people in residential care settings who are at increased of a hip fracture as a result of a fall;

Taking Steps falls risk assessment program;

Annual falls prevention forums to increase the capacity of a wide range of health professionals to integrate falls prevention into their work;

The twelve projects funded by the South Australian Hospitals Safety & Quality Council are listed on its website www.safetyandquality.sa.gov.au. Funded projects are representative of acute, residential and community settings, as well as being a mix of country and metropolitan projects.

4. The action plans of both New South Wales and Queensland were drawn upon extensively in the development of the initial draft of the South Australian action plan. Although it is clearly important to draw upon the work of other states, the consultative phase will ensure that the action plan is appropriate for the South Australian context.

Furthermore, Queensland has developed Falls Prevention Best Practice Guidelines for hospitals and residential care settings. These guidelines are more relevant to practitioners than to policy makers.

Therefore, they have been identified in the draft South Australian action plan as a key resource for practitioners, and the adoption of this resource is included as a strategy in the draft plan.