Falls risk score removal does not impact inpatient falls: a stepped-wedge, cluster-randomised trial Academic Article uri icon


  • Aims and objectives

    To investigate the impact of removing a falls risk screening tool from an overall falls risk assessment programme on the rate of falls, injurious falls and completion of falls prevention activities by staff.


    Falls in older patients are common adverse events in hospital settings. Screening and assessing individual patients for risk of falls are a common, but controversial element of falls prevention strategies in hospitals.


    A stepped-wedge, cluster-randomised controlled trial using a disinvestment approach.


    This trial was carried out according to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT). All patients were admitted to 20 health service wards (9 units) over the 10-month study period. The control condition contained a falls risk screening tool element, a full falls risk factor assessment and intervention provision section. In the intervention condition, only the full falls risk factor assessment and intervention provision section was applied, and the falls risk screening tool element was removed. Fall rates were extracted from hospital level data, files were audited for tool completion, and nurses surveyed about tool use.


    There did not appear to be an impact on the falls rate per month when the risk screening tool component was removed (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.84-favours intervention, 95%CI = 0.67 to 1.05, p = .14) nor on the falls rate with serious injury (IRR = 0.90, 95%CI = 0.26 to 3.09, p = .87). There was a thirty-six second reduction of time per patient reported by staff to complete paperwork (p < .001). There was no difference in the proportion of patients for whom the tool was completed, nor the number of falls prevention interventions identified for implementation.


    Removing the falls risk screening tool section did not negatively impact falls and reduced time spent completing falls prevention paperwork.

    Relevance to clinical practice

    Falls prevention is an important issue in health services. Removal of a screening risk tool is unlikely to impact falls. This has the potential to reduce nursing administration time that may be otherwise redirected to individual approaches to falls prevention.

publication date

  • 2020

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