Absorbent flooring could help to reduce hospital injuries

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A study to see if using ’shock-absorbent’ flooring can reduce injuries caused by falling in hospitals is being piloted at Portsmouth University.

The flooring is usually used in sports halls, but this is the first time it has been used in hospitals where it will be tested to see if it can help stop people, especially the elderly, avoid severe injuries if they fall. The risk of falls increases with age and older people in hospital are at even more risk and more likely to experience serious injury.

The HIP-HOP Flooring Study (Helping Injury Prevention in Hospitalised Older People) is being piloted in eight hospitals across the UK. The flooring looks like ordinary vinyl but has a memory foam backing with shock-absorbing properties.

Half of the hospitals have had the new floor laid in a bay on one of their older persons’ wards while the others will act as a ’control’. The research team will monitor the flooring over 12 months, examine the severity of all reported falls on both types of flooring and compare the results.

Two Hampshire hospitals are among those selected to test the flooring. St Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight will test the new flooring, while Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth is one of those acting as a control.

Amy Drahota from Portsmouth University’s School of Health Science and Social Work is a researcher on the study. She said: ’Older people are especially vulnerable to falls because they are more unsteady on their feet and this can be worse when they are unwell in hospital and walking in unfamiliar surroundings. If they do have a fall then shock-absorbent flooring may help reduce the severity of their injuries and result in a swifter recovery and briefer stay in hospital.’

If the flooring is found to significantly reduce the severity of injuries through falling, it has the potential to be used in care homes and residential homes, as well as hospital wards.

The study has received charitable funding from the Dunhill Medical Trust and the National Osteoporosis Society.