THE BLOG

Falls Are Not an Inevitable Part of Ageing - We Can Prevent Them

01/10/2014 12:46 BST | Updated 30/11/2014 10:59 GMT

One-third of people who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.

That's a terrifying statistic and one that deserves particular attention today on Older People's Day.

Of those who do survive, too many end up losing their independence and never returning home.

It's a terrible - and avoidable - scenario that is being played out in communities across the country at present.

In addition to the personal cost, there is the financial impact - falls are estimated to cost the NHS more than £2bn a year.

This is because the costs of a fall quickly spiral once somebody reaches the hospital door.

There is the cost of attending A&E - falls are the largest cause of older people of emergency admission - then of the surgery, the rehabilitation and potentially residential care.

But we must get away from the idea that they are an inevitable part of the ageing process because there are services available that can prevent them.

Physiotherapists deliver classes that improve people's strength, balance and confidence and provide information on how to reduce risk factors around the home.

And they work with professionals from other agencies, such as social care and the fire service, to make adaptations to people's homes to ensure everything is done to reduce the chances of a fall.

This approach works - but it's not available everywhere.

However, with an ageing population and tight budgets across health and social care, prevention must become a focus for decision-makers.

Today the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy launches new economic modelling that can help the NHS provide effective, fully-funded falls prevention services in every part of England.

The data shows that doing this would prevent nearly 200,000 falls each year and save the NHS £275m.

Conversely, it shows that failing to make this investment would mean the number of people each year who would need a care home admission after a fall could increase 19 per cent by 2020, costing the economy an additional £124.8m annually.

The information, which is available on our website, allows decision-makers in each part of England to draw out their local data and see what a difference physiotherapy can make.

For example, in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG area it shows that 2,859 falls could be prevented and £4.18m saved.

This is cold, hard data that is freely available to all health commissioners in England and I strongly urge them to use it.

Looked at more broadly, it is also exactly the kind of cutting-edge use of data and technology that the NHS needs in the future if it is to continue providing excellent care under the great demographic and financial pressures its faces.

But to return to the present day, immediate action is required.

Too many people are suffering falls that are preventable with the right support.

That support - in the form of falls prevention services - saves money and potentially lives.

With the launch of our data today, I hope we witness the start of a sea-change in how we provide those services to save more people and their families from the devastation of a fall.