Falls A Focus After Serious Injury Study

20 July 2016

More Victorians die from falls than from accidents on our roads, a report into major trauma has found.

The Victorian State Trauma System & Registry annual report 2014/15 found that 459 people – mainly aged over 64 – died from falls from a height of less than a metre over the year, compared with 301 in transport-related accidents. The number of falls deaths have been higher than fatal transport accidents for the past five years.

The report highlights continued improvement in the outcomes and management of major injury patients, including improved survival rates. Victoria’s hospitals treated 3073 major trauma patients in 2014/15 – a 4.7 per cent increase on the year before.

After 15 years of operation, the Victorian State Trauma System remains one of the few fully integrated systems in the world, with a range of designated hospitals playing a key role in the survival of critically injured patients. Preventable death and injury from major trauma has reduced significantly over that time, particularly deaths once patients get to hospital and receive treatment from skilled trauma clinicians.

The Trauma Report also investigated the rate of penetrating trauma following community concern over reports of stabbings, and found no change from previous years.

As well as low height falls, the Trauma Report noted a significant increase in serious injury and death in people falling from ladders – particularly older men.

A national working party is now looking into how to prevent ladder falls and a review of the Australian & New Zealand Ladder Standard will look at any design issues or improvements.

The Andrews Labor Government funds the Victorian Active Ageing Partnership, which has a focus on increasing physical activity among older people – particularly those who are disadvantaged or isolated.

Research has indicated that many older people do not identify themselves as being at risk of falls, and so don’t respond to calls for reducing risks. The Government promotes falls risk reductions being incorporated into many activities for older people, including:

  • Exercise and physical activities including strength and balance improvement..
  • Works by local councils and people in their own homes and gardens to reduce hazards that could lead to falls.
  • Vision and mobility checks and improvements.
  • Falls prevention procedures in residential aged care, hospitals, public places and among people in their own homes.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“More people than ever before are surviving serious accidents and other incidents thanks to the skills of the doctors and professionals in our major trauma hospitals, and are having a better quality of life and less permanent disability as they recover from their injuries.”

“The number of older Victorians who die or experience serious injury from falls is a concern, we will continue to do what we can to reduce the risks.”

“I would encourage Victorians to think first before climbing a ladder or standing on a chair – is there a friend or neighbour who can help you out.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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