As we grow older many of us develop various health problems which can mean we are more likely to lose our balance and fall. Falling can cause serious injuries and it can take a long time to get back to being able to manage as before. Even if we are not hurt when we fall, there can be other long-lasting consequences. It is very common to lose confidence after falling and for many people a fall can be the turning point when they start to lose their independence. Falling is not an inevitable part of growing older. A doctor or other healthcare professional trained to look into what might have led to a fall can carefully assess what could be the problem and often something, or several things, can be done to cut down the chances of falling. For example, for some people it may be their medicines need adjusting or their eyesight can be improved. Exercise is one of the best ways to do this: there is lots of evidence that specific exercises improve balance, build up muscle strength and so help prevent falls.
In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the public health and community health teams made it a priority to try to reduce falls amongst older people. They developed a programme that aimed to join up falls prevention approaches through different services across the county. They asked SPHR researchers to help work out what they needed to make this work and to help decide how to measure how well this would work.
These teams and the researchers decided to include three strands in this evaluation project:
1) Learning from new services as they developed with a focus on one neighbourhood team pilot project where a specialist nurse ran falls training sessions and a new team of falls prevention health trainers
2) Gathering a wide range of views on what could help falls prevention work better in practice
3) Working with information managers to find out what data could be used to measure progress
We found most people very keen to do more to prevent falls and share ideas on ways to improve this. They highlighted key challenges including the need for:
– organisations to prioritise falls prevention training, adequate staffing with expert support
– easier communication between services
– better measuring of referral details and waiting times
– more accessible public information
– more widespread affordable community exercise groups