Support our Nation today - please donate here

Offering elderly people a ‘cwtch’ after a fall ‘cuts hospital admissions’, new research shows

26 Apr 2022 3 minute read
Picture by Matthias Zomer

Health professionals in Swansea are giving elderly people a “cwtch” after a fall in a bid to keep them out of hospital.

But while those who have taken a tumble may benefit from a cwtch, the Welsh word for a hug, in this case it is also a mnemonic setting out how to handle the situation.

Traditional best practice states that when older people have fallen, they should not be moved and they should not be given any food or drink until an ambulance arrives.

But this approach is being turned on its head, with mounting evidence suggesting leaving someone where they have fallen can cause serious physical problems, according to the Swansea Bay University Health Board.

This in itself can lead them needing hospital treatment as a result of pneumonia or dehydration when the fall itself might not have done.

The problems caused by current practice are exacerbated by long ambulance wait times, it said.

The cwtch system offers a five-point plan for dealing with a fall:

  • Can you move them?
  • Will it harm them – for example by causing any new neck or back pain?
  • Treat – dress wounds or offer pain relief
  • Cup of tea – most elderly people eat or drink after a fall
  • Help – know when to call an ambulance or doctor


The system was developed by Debra Clee, an emergency nurse practitioner in Older People’s Assessment Services (OPAS) at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Ms Clee said: “We are trying to change the narrative out there and say that if they can be moved then we need to move them.

“We are finding that they are being admitted, not because of the fall but because of the long lie, as we call it.”

Ms Clee continued: “When you hear stories about someone never recovering from a fall, often it’s not the injury itself but being left on a hard surface for a very long time.

“This can cause acute kidney problems, it can give them pneumonia, it can cause muscle tissue to break down.

“If they are not being given anything to eat or drink they can become dehydrated. By the time they come to us they are not fit for surgery, if it’s needed, and are quite unwell.”

The Cwtch system has been introduced in nursing homes in Swansea and will be rolled out to those in Neath Port Talbot.

Ms Clee said there were circumstances where a patient should not be moved, but even on those occasions the patient can usually be offered painkillers and something to eat or drink.

“In many cases they can be helped up, maybe given a cup of tea and put into bed with some paracetamol,” she said.

“Within a few hours or by the next morning they could be up and about again. If necessary, a GP can be called to see them or they can be taken to the minor injury unit or to us here in OPAS.”

Ms Clee said that in these circumstances patients can usually be transported by car, but someone left on the floor for hours will definitely need an ambulance and usually admission to hospital.

The idea for cwtch came around during a discussion between Ms Clee and consultant geriatrician Dr Liz Davies.

Cwtch received the Best Presentation Award from the British Geriatric Society for Wales just a month after it was introduced.

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.