A new service hopes to significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by falls in North Tyneside.
The new Community Falls Service will offer advice and assessments for people who have recently fallen, or who are at risk of falling.
It has been commissioned by NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and is being launched by partners from The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, TyneHealth Ltd, North Tyneside Council, Age UK North Tyneside, North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and the Tyne and Wear Fire Service.
The service will offer a community falls clinic, managed by Newcastle Hospitals and North Tyneside GP Federation; Safe and Well Checks, by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS); strength and balance courses, provided by Age UK; and Falls First Responder service, provided by North Tyneside Council and the North East Ambulance Service.
Falls and related injuries are a significant problem for older people – 30% of over-65s and 50% of over-80s have at least one fall in a year, with one fall in 20 leading to hospital admission and one in 10 causing significant injury.
Dr Alexandra Kent, a local GP and clinicial lead for the falls service at NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “Trips, slips and falls are among the most common accidents in the home. Injuries from a fall can have a major impact on your life. If you fall we will make sure you get the support you need but wherever possible we want to prevent falls from happening in the first place.”
For more on the service, contact 0191 298 2196.
“In North Tyneside, an average of 115-140 people over 65 are admitted to hospital each month after suffering a fall. This costs an average of £4.7 million a year, which does not include the cost of social care or money that families directly pay for care.”
Coun Gary Bell, cabinet member with responsibility for Adult Social Care, said: “The health and care of our most vulnerable is a top priority for North Tyneside Council, so we are delighted to be part of this initiative.
“The 999 service will be directly dispatching our team to members of the public – in the same way they would direct an ambulance – to help those who don’t require emergency medical attention but may need assistance getting up after a fall, treatment of minor injuries or other support. Our team will be able to link into community health services to attend to minor injuries at home, preventing the need to attend A&E.
“Like many public sector organisations, the ambulance service is facing growing pressures, but we hope by providing a dedicated falls team and a vehicle, it will help to free up ambulance staff to deal with emergency cases.
“Our Care Call service is very successful and our staff are extremely experienced – they already support and advise people in the community who have fallen at home and need assistance, or frail people who are at risk of falls.”
Within the first 12 months of the service being operational, it is expected that around 1,000 patients will be seen. Similar services have proven effective elsewhere in the country and it is hoped that the new service will have similar success.
Tony Markwell, head of prevention and education at TWFRS, said: “There are many risk factors in dying through a house fire. Living alone and limited mobility are just two – but at this time of year they are the most prevalent, with bad weather often keeping the most vulnerable in our community indoors and isolated.
“Through our Home Safety Checks we are able to identify and support individuals who fall into these categories. Our fire safety advice helps to prevent tragedies occurring.
“Our role in this new service, takes our visits one step further. Our specialist prevention team, who has been trained in falls awareness, can now also provide practical support to those at risk of a fall. The visits also allow us to quickly identify where a resident needs specific support from one of our partners and we can refer them quickly so that they receive the necessary help.”
Dan Haworth, Advanced Practice Manager at NEAS, said: “A fall is the fourth most common reason for requesting ambulance assistance, particularly in the older population, with people aged 65 and older having the highest risk of falling.
“As an emergency service, our priority must always be to those patients who are in a life threatening condition. As a result, this can unfortunately mean some patients whose lives are not imminently at risk, such as elderly fallers, may wait longer for an ambulance than we would like.
“Welcoming Care Call into our team of first responders not only allows us to provide a better experience for those patients who have fallen without injury, but also increases our ambulances’ availability to attend life threatening calls.
“If successful, we would be looking to expand this pilot across the rest of our region.”
Dr Steve Parry, clinical lead at the North Tyneside Community Falls Prevention Service clinic, said: “Instead of waiting for people to fall, we will be proactively looking for older people at risk of falls, as well as those who have already had falls, blackouts, dizziness and balance problems while also seeing referrals from partner services who come into contact with older patients.
“We want to keep people well, and promote a healthy, active approach to ageing that is geared to each individual regardless of their current level.”
Alma Caldwell, chief executive of Age UK North Tyneside, said: “Our strength and balance classes are designed not only to support physical improvements, but to build confidence and allow social networks to form so that can go forward making more of later life.”
As a patient, you can be referred to the falls service by any health or social care professional, or you can self-refer if you have any concerns.
For more information on the Falls Service, contact 0191 298 2196.