Nottingham shaping falls prevention strategy nationally

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Health bosses across the country will soon have “no excuses” not to roll out programmes to reduce the risk of older people falling after a new resource was developed in Nottingham, according to a leading expert.

The city has been at the forefront of research to help embed strength and balance exercise training to prevent falls, which are the leading cause of unintentional injury in older people.

A team of researchers at the University of Nottingham funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) East Midlands have been working on ways to increase the availability of such programmes.

As an outcome of their work during the PHISICAL study, a toolkit has been developed to enable commissioners and providers to implement the Falls Management Exercise (FaME) programme, which includes balance, endurance and strength exercises as well as techniques for getting up from the floor after a fall. A study in 2014 showed that FaME increased physical activity levels and significantly reduced falls by 26 per cent in the over 65s.

This implementation toolkit provides evidence-based information on how to commission and provide a group-based strength and balance training programme in the community, with all the necessary templates needed to get a service rolled out.

It was showcased at the national Home Safety Congress staged by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents which took place on February 27 at the National Space Centre in Leicester, ahead of a launch this spring.

Elizabeth Orton, who is Associate Professor and Consultant in Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences from the University of Nottingham, leading the CLAHRC East Midlands study, said: “Fall admissions account for four million hospital bed days in England each year, which is costing our health service £2 billion every year.
“Falls in older people are a leading cause of unintentional injury. Due to an ageing population, the occurrence of injuries is likely to increase unless more is done to reduce older people’s falls risk.

“The case for investing in strength and balance exercises for adults at risk of falling is clear. Each year around a third of over 65s and half of those aged over 80 have at least one fall. These falls can result in painful injuries, loss of confidence and potentially the loss of independence. Yet, with better strength and balance, many of these falls could be prevented.

“Strength and balance exercise programmes are recommended nationally, to prevent falls in older people. However, the commissioning of such programmes is inconsistent across England. That’s why we have developed this toolkit, it means commissioners will have no excuses to start rolling out these programmes.”

The toolkit includes sections on topics such as developing a business case, service specification and cost calculator, workforce considerations, quality assurance, publicity materials such as posters and case studies.

NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands is a partnership of the NHS, universities, patients and industry which sets out to improve patient outcomes by conducting research of local relevance and international quality.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is the Director of the CLAHRC East Midlands, said: “Falls are an important cause of disability and loss of independence in older age and they can lead to loss of confidence, increased social isolation and severe injuries. As the number of older people is increasing in the UK, this problem is set to get worse. This is why CLAHRC East Midlands has been working to improve and speed up prevention strategies key to ensuring older people remain safe and independent.”

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