Posted by at 01/07/2013 17:28:03
An innovative falls prevention service, which is helping to reduce the number of older people attending A&E after taking a tumble, has been given the green light for two more years by NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The CCG decided to continue funding the service, which is provided by Kent Community Health Trust (KCHT), after hearing how it is reducing injuries and improving people's lives.
Between 1 June 2012 and 27 June 2013 the service received 1,883 referrals across west Kent from GPs, Maidstone Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital. Initial results suggest the pilot is successfully reducing attendance at accident and emergency departments.
The falls prevention service offers a 10-week programme for people who are referred from the Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone and Sevenoaks areas, and on average 14 people take part at any one time. The support includes help with posture, exercises, balance tests, and advice on what can be done at home.
More than 30 per cent of people over 65 and half of those aged over 80 have a fall every year.
The project aims to cut the number of people admitted to hospital after falling and reduce long-term injuries.
Dr Bob Bowes, Chair for NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Research shows that if someone has a first or second fall and suffers a minor fracture, the likelihood of serious injury or permanent disability from further falls is much higher.”
But there’s lots that people can do to avoid falls and the NHS is offering advice to people to encourage them to ‘think feet’.
Dr Bowes said: “Simple steps can be taken to make the home and garden a safer place. Making sure floors are free from clutter and clearing up mess and spillages can help, as well as making sure that there are no tripping hazards such as an upturned rug or trailing wires.”
KCHT Modern Matron Debbie Marsh said: “A lot of older people are afraid of falling over so they avoid moving which can be worse for them.
“As people are referred, we look at whether they’ve been to hospital recently and offer advice and support to help them avoid falling again. Our work will keep them out of hospital.”
The average age of people taking part tends to be 80 plus, but referrals can be made from a GP for anyone aged from 65 upwards.
Falls are often caused by a combination of medical and social reasons. This can include urinary tract infections, dementia, pneumonia, poor housing conditions, a lack of equipment and adaptations for older or disabled people and inadequate carer support. Foot conditions can result in foot pain, which in turn can cause problems with balance, walking and sensation in the feet – all of which can lead to falls.
There are lots of things people can do to minimise the risk of falling, including:
- Regular exercise that challenges balance and improves muscle strength in legs, such as walking, gardening and dancing
- Regular eye tests – vision problems can sometimes affect balance and coordination
- Wearing well fitted shoes and slippers
- Check your medicines – if your medication makes you feel faint or off-balance you should let your GP know in case the dosage is too high
- Boost your vitamin D levels – found in food such as oily fish, cereals and eggs.
Dr Bowes added: “Most people have a fall at some point in their lives, but it’s important to get checked out if it’s more than a one off or if you bang your head or injure yourself falling.”
Continuing provision of the Falls Prevention Service for a further two years, until 31 March 2016, was announced at the monthly governing body meeting of NHS West Kent CCG, where the Older People’s Strategy was discussed.
Dr Bowes said: “Our aim is for older people to have care that keeps them as well as possible for as long as possible, and for there to be excellent support for their carers – often their husband or wife, who may themselves be elderly and frail.”
The next meeting of the NHS West Kent CCG governing body will take place on Tuesday 23 July 2013, 1.30 – 5.00pm at The Village Hotel, Castle View, Forstal Road, Sandling, Maidstone, ME14 3AQ. Questions are welcomed from the public for 20 minutes at the beginning of the meeting.
For further information on falls prevention, see www.kentcht.nhs.uk and Twitter @FallsKent or visit www.ageuk.org.uk/falls