EVERYONE has has done it - slipped or tripped and fallen in a moment of inattention. Younger people can dust themselves down and see the funny side of it.

But for those of more mature years it is no laughing matter, with the danger of fractures and long rehabilitation a real prospect. Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls.

And with temperatures plummeting as Storm Caroline leaves an Arctic airflow in its wake, the NHS in the North-East is urging all those at risk of falls to take extra care as an increasing number of people affected will require urgent care.

Health bosses say the winter months bring additional challenges with wet, cold weather, falling leaves, ice and snow becoming hazardous. Falls are one of the main causes of older people attending accident and emergency departments and this can sometimes lead to lengthy hospital stays.

A report published in Autumn 2017, commissioned by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, revealed that in 2014/15 there were 12,654 emergency admissions for falls in the North East and North Cumbria, costing an estimated £84,973,249 to the region’s NHS.

When bad weather swept across the region on Thursday last week, the North East Ambulance Service recorded 53 cases of patients falling in snow and ice, of which almost half were aged over 60.

NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North-East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “The problem we have is that older people are more at risk of falls and fracture, irrespective of the weather.

“Obviously as we go into winter the environmental factors increase that risk. The natural ageing process means that older people have an increased risk of having a fall.

“There’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, as we grow old our bones become thinner and more frail and more at risk of fracture. The commonest are a fractured in the wrist, leg or hip. All of those are associated with a long period of hospitalisation and often a loss of confidence and independence when they return home.

He added: "In a 12-month period 12,654 emergency admissions in the North-East and Cumbria alone is a phenomenal number.

"The point we want to get across, it’s not so much the cost of the falls in monetary terms, it’s the impact of those falls on people’s well-being and impact on their family as well."

He added: “When the weather is really bad, the advice is to think carefully about going out in the first place. These messages are really important as our A&E departments are under significant pressure."

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “Older people are at particular risk of falls during winter. The streets can be extremely slippery underfoot due to fallen leaves, accumulations of rain, ice and snow, so we would encourage all older people to take extra care when out and about.

“When weather conditions are like this a pair of sturdy shoes with non-slip soles are worth their weight in gold as they may prevent a nasty tumble and resultant injury.

“Winter can also be a lonely time for older people if the weather means they are stuck at home, so we’d also urge people to keep an eye on their older family members, friends and neighbours.

“Bringing in some shopping for them, collecting prescriptions or just stopping by to check they’re ok, and being prepared to have a friendly chat, can be of immense help to older people at this time of year.”

Assistant dispatch service manager Andy Bell, of the North East Ambulance Service, said : “At this time of year, we see more people out doing shopping for Christmas and when the bad weather comes there are more hazards such as snow, ice and colder temperatures.

“Falling can impact on the quality of a patient’s life and taking steps to keep warm and stay safe can make a real difference, particularly for older people.”

Five tips to avoid slips and trips: make sure your slippers and shoes fit properly; wear shoes or boots with flat, low heels, and a slip-resistant sole; clear clutter, loose wires and rugs from around the house; see your optician for regular eye tests; make sure your house is well lit; keep active and exercise, and eat calcium-rich foods.

If worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174 (8am-7pm).