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

HSE Press Release: Wednesday 18th September 2019

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

 An estimated 60,000 people per year in Ireland require medical attention for a fall

 Falls accounted for 81% of major trauma in people over 65 in 2017 – up from 77% in 2016

Estimated cost of falls related injuries to the economy is projected to reach €1.07 billion in 2020 rising to €2.04 billion by 2030


Anyone can have a fall, but they become more common as we get older. Slips, trips and falls are one of the most commonly-reported service user incidents reported across acute, community and residential health and social care.

Following the success of the inaugural AFFINITY - National Falls & Bone Health’ Symposium last year, this year’s event will build further on innovative practices in falls prevention and bone health across the country. The challenge is to spread and scale up such services.  Hence the theme of this year’s symposium; Preventing Harm from Falls- Making it Happen Together

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 support healthy and active ageing, prevent falls, and promote good bone health throughout life, is key to reducing harm from falls. 

AFFINITY is the national falls prevention and bone health project set up to reduce harm from falls in Ireland’s  population as it ages. The work is being led by the Health Service Executive (HSE) working with the State Claims Agency (SCA), 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 by;

  • Reducing the risk and rate of falling where possible
  • Reducing the severity of injuries and
  • Promoting the best possible outcomes for people who have suffered a falls related injury

In addressing the symposium and welcoming the work of the participants Minister Jim Daly noted that, “Unfortunately for many older people in Ireland, falls and the resulting injuries have become part of the ageing process. This, I believe does not have to be an accepted norm. I ask the delegates today to work together, build relationships and establish the integrated mechanisms needed to meet the challenge of reducing falls and fractures in our older people.”

Opening the conference, Michael Fitzgerald, HSE Older People and Palliative Care – Strategy, said, “This symposium provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from national and international experiences of a system-wide approach to developing and enhancing falls prevention and bone health services in Ireland.  Building collaborations across multiple sectors is vital as falls prevention and bone health spans right across our health services and the community in general. Everyone can get involved and do their part to tackle this issue.”

Dr Cathal O’Keeffe, State Claims Agency, said, “Following the success of the inaugural AFFINITY National Falls and Bone Health Symposium last year; we are delighted to be here again today to promote bone health and identify key factors in falls prevention. 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.”

Whilst 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 significant;

  • The estimated cost of falls related injuries to the economy is projected to reach €1.07 billion in 2020 rising to €2.04 billion by 2030 which is based on a scenario of a constant increase in the number of people with falls and fractures (ref:
  • 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 accounted for 77% of major trauma presentations in people over 65 in 2016, and 81% in 2017 (2017 National Trauma Audit).
  • Injuries from falls are numerous but fractures are the most problematic. 3,608 patients aged 60 years or over were hospitalised following a hip fracture during 2017 in Ireland. The number of hospitalisations for hip fractures is projected to triple between 2014 and 2046 (Kelly et al, 2018).
  • 168 people aged 65+ died from fall related incidents in 2017, accounting for 76.8% of deaths due to accidental falls.

The symposium will be 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, Older Peoples Councils and service users; all of whom have a common interest in working together to reduce harm from falls. Attendees will hear from national and international speakers* including;

Lianne McInally, Senior Improvement Advisor, Quality Directorate, NHS Lanarkshire, Scotland –  (Key Note) Building Integrated Falls & Bone Health Care pathways including Telehealth – The Scottish Experience

  • Frances  Dockery Consultant Physician & Geriatrician, Beaumont Hospital -  Evidence Informed Interventions to Prevent Harm from Falls in Older People
  • Claire Hickey & Katie Burke, Centre for Effective Services – The Implementation Black Box & Evaluation as a Driver for Change
  • Eileen Moriarty, HSE - Update on AFFINITY National Falls & Bone Health Project
  • Louise Brent, National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA) - Highlights from Irish Hip Fracture Database, Major Trauma Audit
  • Dr Donncha O’Gradaigh, Fracture Liaison Services, University Hospital Waterford – Bone Health and Fracture Liaison

Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend workshops focussing on falls prevention and bone health in different settings including community, residential and in acute hospitals. There will also be a service user engagement workshop developed by the Service User Panel, Age Friendly Ireland and HSE National Quality Improvement Team.

Follow @HSELive on Twitter    #affinity19    #fallsandbonehealth


Last updated on: 18 / 09 / 2019