Early interventions to prevent falls

Falls class standing with instructor

People who were at risk of falling now have an improved quality of life thanks to community exercise classes in Southwark and Lambeth.

The community exercise classes help people to build their strength and balance over 30 weeks, so they can continue to do day-to-day activities safely – like using public transport, socialising with friends and integrating with the community.

The community exercise classes have been part of a Southwark and Lambeth Integrated Care project which aimed to design and test innovative methods to identify people at low risk of falling and provide them with support before their chances of falling increases.

The exercise classes are being run in venues across Southwark and Lambeth as part of the project, and participants are very positive about the impact they are having on their lives.
75 per cent of the participants said they now felt more confident and have an improved quality of life.

Irene Brown, from Walworth, said: “I really enjoyed the classes and they helped me immensely – they really pushed me. Before the classes I was quite wobbly, but I think about how I walk now and am more steady and sturdy on my feet.

“It was nice to see how other people in the class were improving as well. I keep in touch with a couple of them still.”

Husband and wife Harvey and Evelyn Rich, from Streatham, have both attended the strength and balance classes through referrals from their GP.

Mr Rich, 79, said: “The classes were really fun. I’m much more confident now and much fitter than I was two years ago. Now I attend an over 55s club where we play table tennis, badminton and tennis.”

One innovative system that was introduced during the project was a self-referral telephone triage helpline to signpost people to the correct service for them without the need for a GP referral.
Falls attendee stretching leg
Also through feedback the project team discovered that some of the participants struggled to continue the exercises at home after completing the exercise classes. So they produced a specific exercise video for the participants to watch at home to help them do the exercises correctly.

Greg Battarbee, from the Community Rehabilitation and Falls Service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Project Lead, said: “We are now working with local community and voluntary groups to develop their exercise classes to incorporate the right level of strength and balance activities.

“We are also supporting local people and instructors to set up new classes, so they can maintain the improvements they made - after they finish our 30-week community exercise classes.”

Recently over 100 of the class participants and members of  community and voluntary organisations attended an event held at Guy’s Hospital by the Community Rehabilitation and Falls Service to discuss how best to support local people after their 30-week exercise programmes come to an end.

Greg said: “We were absolutely thrilled about how many people were able to attend our event. It was a great morning and we received a lot of feedback!

“The class participants want a follow on option and the preferences are for pay-as-you-go classes run by qualified postural stability instructors or a list of existing classes which have been accredited by the project team to ensure it incorporates the right level of strength and balance components.

“We were able to get community instructors to sign up to work with us to get their classes to this level and also venues identifying availability and interest in running classes, as well as postural stability instructors who are interested in running pay-as-you-go options. We will continue to develop these options over the coming months.”

In 2012/13 there were 13,039 falls related A&E attendances and ambulance call outs by local people of Lambeth and Southwark, and 3029 admissions into hospital. This amounts to a whole system cost in one year of £8.25 million.