April Falls - It's No Joke

Preventing harm from falls in hospital is everyone’s business.

That’s the message of this year’s April Falls promotion which gets underway today at Northland District Health Board (NDHB).

Sheryll Beveridge, Associate Director of Nursing, says falls are an ongoing and serious cause of patient harm.

“We take patient safety very seriously and have been working hard to improve care and ensure we prevent harm from falls,” she says. “Nobody wants a patient to be harmed from a fall while receiving health care.”

Preventing harm from falls is a major focus for the Northern Region[1] via its First, Do No Harm patient safety campaign. This campaign has seen hospital and residential aged care sectors working closely together to find new ways to make improvements and provide an environment that is safe. The Region’s district health boards are now joining efforts with the national work on raising the profile of reducing harm.

Northland DHB is marking April Falls month with a promotional event in the staff cafeteria today at morning tea and lunch times.  There are posters and balloons marking the event and also patient photos and story boards demonstrating the progress our falls champions have made to date and our plan for the next year.

Sheryll says falls can cause suffering and sometimes death, as well as distress for the families/whanau or caregivers of the person who has fallen.  A fall-related injury often means a longer hospital stay and extra medical tests and treatment. 

“In the Northern Region, one focus is on the use of data to identify issues, so interventions to reduce falls and harm from falls can be put in place. For example, in a ward at Whangarei Hospital analysis of falls data found most falls were happening in the morning, around the time patients needed to go to the bathroom. When staff schedules were rearranged so health care assistants started earlier, the number of falls dropped significantly.”

Non slip red socks are also common place at Whangarei hospital and are used to prevent people who are at risk of falling.  Originally from Australia Whangarei Hospital has been using red socks for the past three years to help prevent falls. 

It is one of the main reasons patients are admitted earlier than expected to a residential aged care facility.  Between 2010 and 2012, a total of 200 people nationally fell while in hospital care and broke their hip.

A national patient safety campaign being coordinated by the Health Quality & Safety Commission will be launched in May. This builds on the work that has been undertaken across the DHBs and the Northern Region’s First, Do No Harm campaign.  The national campaign will be focusing initially on reducing harm from falls.  Other areas of focus during the campaign will be healthcare-associated infections, medications and perioperative harm.

To find out more contact

More information about reducing harm from falls is available from the Commission’s website,  For more information about First, Do No Harm visit

Nicholas Abbs with student nurse Jason Wordsworth –putting on red socks.

[1] The Northern Region is one of four district health board alliances nationwide and covers Northland, Waitemata, Auckland and Counties Manukau District Health Boards.

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