'Worrying' increase in care home falls

A HUGE rise in injuries at Suffolk's residential care homes for the elderly has been described as 'worrying' and led to calls for an independent inquiry.

A HUGE rise in injuries at Suffolk's residential care homes for the elderly has been described as 'worrying' and led to calls for an independent inquiry.

An investigation has found that injuries in Suffolk County Council's 16 residential care homes for older people more than quadrupled between 2006 and last year.

The Suffolk Pensioners' Association labelled the figures 'worrying' and called for an independent inquiry - but social services chiefs said they were providing support to people who were more vulnerable to accidents such as falls.

Injuries reported in Suffolk County Council's 16 residential care homes totalled 569 last year - up from 349 the year before and just 121 in 2006.

The figures, obtained following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, include injuries sustained not only to residents, but also staff, visitors, members of the public and contractors.

But the investigation found that of the 569 injuries which occurred last year, a total of 427 were sustained by elderly residents.

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Assaults led to 83 injuries - including 25 on residents and 57 on residential home staff.

By far the largest number of resident' injuries reported at the 16 care homes were caused by falls - 273 in 2009.

Cliff Horne, chairman of Suffolk Pensioners' Association, last night called for an independent inquiry in the wake of the figures.

'This is obviously worrying,' he said.

'Just saying that the council are having to deal with more complicated illnesses is not right.

'Suffolk County Council should really have an inquiry into it, that is what they need to do - perhaps have an independent inquiry to see why it has increased so much.

'I would be concerned if I was a family member and I would want to know more about why this is happening.

'I think they need to not just dismiss it and say that it is because of dementia. I think there is possibly more than one factor involved.'

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said although figures were going up, the county council had a good reputation.

'Obviously people are generally much frailer when they go into care homes but they [the county council] have to adapt their practices to support these people,' she said.

'It looks very worrying and I would want to know why they think the increase is happening.'

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the statistics should not be considered in isolation.

'Our residential homes for older people provide services for those who are increasingly frail with higher dependency needs, including people with dementia-type conditions,' she said.

'The risk of these groups of people having a fall is obviously going to be higher than those without a medical condition.

'Falls prevention is a key priority and each residential home has a dedicated 'falls preventions lead' who works with health professionals towards a positive change for the residents' wellbeing. 'Staff have the necessary skills to assist residents to enable them to lead an active life but with this comes inherent but managed risks of doing so.'

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