Preventing falls this fall

The Royal College of Physicians has highlighted the importance of vision in fall prevention


A new 12-point checklist by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) reminds families and carers to ensure older patients’ spectacles are clean and are being used as prescribed.

The advice of an optometrist should be sought if an older person is having trouble seeing, the guide also recommends.

The RCP launched the jargon-free Falls prevention in hospital: a guide for patients, families and their carers checklist last month to help reduce the numbers of serious injuries that occur when older people trip or fall while in hospital.

Each year, approximately 282,000 patient falls are reported in hospitals and mental health units across the UK.

College of Optometrists policy and strategy director, Jo Mullin, told OT that every fall has a number of factors.

“However, vision is fundamental to coordinating movement – our balance, postural stability, gait, depth perception, and contrast sensitivity are all visually driven…So, while you can’t identify a singular cause for any particular fall, it is clear that vision plays a part, more often than not,” she explained.

Ms Mullin praised the RCP’s initiative, adding: “Educating patients is key to prevention. The tips are clear and concise, and cover all essential aspects that a hospital patient might need to consider. It is really encouraging to see such a focus on preventive measures.”

Optometrists play a vital role in helping to prevent falls both within and outside of hospitals, and the College has produced a number of resources, including a practice checklist and poster, to support optometrists who want to promote fall prevention in their community, she added.

Ms Mullin highlighted that: “By paying particular attention to elderly patients who may appear frail, or who show signs of having had a fall already, such as bruising, optometrists can help identify those at risk. Practice staff can also help, by watching out for mobility warning signs in the waiting room.”