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Introduction Falls within the acute hospital setting are common and cause significant morbidity and mortality. Mobility aids are used to decrease the risk of falls, however they are often left out of patients reach, resulting in people being unable to mobilise or at increased risk of falling; this impacts on dignity and safety. The purpose of the service evaluation was to identify if mobility aids are within arm's reach on three acute medical wards at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham: a diabetes ward, an acute geriatrics ward and the Clinical Decisions Unit (CDU).
Intervention Each ward was visited on two occasions to conduct patient observations, revealing 128 patients who required a mobility aid. On all wards, less than 50% of patients had their mobility aid within arm's reach; on CDU, this figure was 20.5%. The intervention was a simple patient bedside poster and a weekly staff reminder at the wards' multi-disciplinary meetings. All wards were visited on weeks one and two post-intervention.
Improvement All wards demonstrated an improvement: the diabetes and acute geriatrics ward demonstrated a 20% improvement, CDU only a 4% improvement.
Discussion The intervention was effective in encouraging staff, visitors and patients to leave mobility aids within arm's reach. One negative attitude encountered, suggested that leaving aids within arm's reach encouraged patients to mobilise unsupervised and may increase their risk of falls. Further education and changes are required to combat these attitudes. A particular challenge on CDU was that 53% of mobility aids were left at home. In this case patient interviews revealed ambulance staff advise patients to leave their mobility aid at home; direct consultation with ambulance personnel would be useful and alternative strategies may need to be trialled.