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RCP launches new eyesight test to prevent hospital falls


23 January 2017

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The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has launched an eyesight assessment tool for patients to help prevent falls while in hospital, today.

The resource aims to support busy clinical staff in assessing visual impairment in older people.

It uses a mixture of questions and visual aids to help doctors, nurses and therapists check eyesight at the patient’s bedside.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has launched an eyesight assessment tool for patients to help prevent falls while in hospital, today.

The resource aims to support busy clinical staff in assessing visual impairment in older people.

It uses a mixture of questions and visual aids to help doctors, nurses and therapists check eyesight at the patient’s bedside.

Results from the tool indicate the extent of any visual problems that the patient may have.

People are deemed as having a visual impairment when their level of vision is below that required to carry out normal everyday activities.

These people are almost twice as likely to fall, and to have recurrent falls and resultant fractures, than people with normal eyesight.

Although there is no single cause of falls, poor vision in older people is often related to increased risk.

Despite this, the RCP’s most recent National Audit of Inpatient Falls revealed that less than half of older patients had a vision assessment when they went into hospital.

This is thought to be due to clinicians struggling to find a workable, standardised approach to basic vision assessment that is achievable in an acute hospital setting.

Melanie Hingorani, Moorfields consultant and chair of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Quality and Safety Group, said: “Ward staff who have no ophthalmic experience can struggle to understand how to check vision properly.

“This tool allows ward staff to take patients through simple step-by-step checks which will flag up visual problems.

“It can help prevent falls and ensure any potentially serious vision problems are highlighted to medical staff, who can refer if necessary to the eye clinic.”

Falls in hospital are the most commonly reported patient safety incidents, with more than 600 a day happening in acute hospitals and mental health trusts in England and Wales every year.

Dr Mary-Ann Sherratt, president of the College of Optometrists, said: “Patients are often unaware of how vulnerable to a fall they are – even a pair of spectacles with an outdated prescription can significantly increase their risk of falling.

“Arming ward staff with the knowledge of the link between vision and falls is a huge and important step forward.”

The new resource will be available to trusts and local health boards in England and Wales from today.

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