International and Irish experts tackle falls prevention and bone health at Dublin conference

Anyone can have a fall, but they become more common as we get older. Slips, trips and falls account for over a third of overall incidents reported across acute, community and residential health care every year. 

 AFFINITY Symposium

However, falls can be reduced according to experts from the Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand who presented at the inaugural ‘AFFINITY - National Falls & Bone Health’ Symposium which took place in Dublin Castle today (Tuesday 30th October).  In New Zealand, the introduction of the Reducing Harm from Falls Programme since 2012 has achieved the following;

  •  Less Falls (7,163)
  •  Less Fractures (2,523)
  •  Less hip-fractures (443)
  •  Fewer premature deaths (89)
  •  Reduced hospital demand (4,786 bed days)
  •  Better quality of life and higher efficiencies.

 Strategies to prevent falls

Falls have a devastating impact on older people causing pain and suffering, loss of independence and, for some, the need for nursing home care.  However, putting in place strategies that will help prevent falls, reduce harm from falls and promote good bone health throughout life, is key. 

 AFFINITY is the national falls prevention and bone health project set up to reduce harm from falls in Ireland’s older people. The work is being led by the HSE working with the States Claims Agency, Age Friendly Ireland and most importantly, older people. The aim of the project is to:

  •  Increase awareness of the preventable nature of falls and to empower older people, communities and health and social care providers
  •  Reduce the risk and rate of falling where possible
  •  Reduce the severity of injuries, and
  •  Promote the best possible outcomes for people who have suffered a falls related injury.


Speaking at the conference, Michael Fitzgerald, HSE Older People and Palliative Care – Strategy, said, “This symposium provides a forum to learn from national and international experiences of a system-wide approach to improving and scaling up falls prevention and bone health services.  No one organisation can tackle this issue alone. Building communities of good practice is vital. Falls prevention and bone health spans right across our health services, and the community, so falls prevention is everyone’s business.”


Welcoming attendees, Dr Cathal O’Keeffe, Head of Clinical Risk at the State Claims Agency, said, “This is the inaugural AFFINITY National Falls and Bone Health Symposium; a collaboration between the HSE and the State Claims Agency. The Affinity vision is a life free from harmful falls for all older persons in Ireland. The evidence shows that harmful falls and fractures are not an inevitable part of ageing and can be prevented. Today’s symposium is a wonderful opportunity to showcase good practice and share learnings.”


While the cost of a fall or poor bone health is detrimental to the quality of life of the person affected, the financial cost to the economy is also significant;

  •  2 in 5 people over 65 experience a fall in a 2 year period of which 20% require hospital attendance.  This equates to 60,000 people per year in Ireland requiring medical attention for a fall (TILDA 2017)
  •  Falls account for 77% of major trauma in people over 65 (National Trauma Audit)
  •  Injuries from falls are numerous but fractures are the most problematic - in 2011, there were more than 4,000 hip fractures in Ireland and mostly in people over 80 year of age.
  •  Estimated cost of falls related injuries to the economy is projected at €1bn in 2020 rising to €2bn by 2030.


The symposium was attended by more than 300 people including health care professionals working in hospitals, residential settings and in the community, members of Age Friendly Ireland programme and Older Peoples Councils; all of whom have a common interest in working together to reduce harm from falls. Attendees heard from national and international speakers including;

  •  Carmela Petagna and Sandy Blake, Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand - Reducing Harm from Falls Programme
  •  Eileen Moriarty, HSE - AFFINITY National Falls and Bone Health Project
  •  Dr. Anne Hendry - Falls and Bone Health as Tracers for Integrated Care
  •  Ann Murray, Falls Lead for Scottish Government Active and Independent Living Programme
  •  Dr. Donncha O’Gradaigh, Fracture Liaison Services UHW - Recommendations on Integrated Falls and Fracture Risk Assessment and Treatment
  •  Louise Brent, National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA) - Irish Hip Fracture Database 
  •  Cornelia Stuart, HSE Quality Assurance and Verification - Service User Falls Review Guide.

Delegates also attended falls prevention and bone health workshops focussing on community residential settings, those living independently and acute hospitals.


Follow @HSELive on Twitter #AFFINITY18  #fallsandbonehealth

Last updated on: 30 / 10 / 2018