STRONGER action has been called for to protect Swindon’s most vulnerable, after alarming figures revealed 10,000 pensioners fell each year – a problem which costs health and social care in Swindon £5m each year.
According to research published by the local authority, 30 per cent of over 65s, which accounts for 30,000 people, experience one or more falls.
It is estimated that 10,000 will fall each year while 4,000 will fall twice or more.
A further 1,500 fallers will attend an accident and emergency department or minor injuries unit and 730 will sustain a fracture.
Out of these, 90 will no longer be able to live independently as a result of a hip fracture and 45 will be admitted to a care home.
Many of these are preventable and regular bone screenings, appropiate checks – especially on people who have experienced a fall in the past – could help to safeguard thousands.
Yesterday, Swindon councillors backed recommendations to ensure closer work between social and health care to guarantee everything possible was in place to protect over 65s.
Better training and exploring ways to increase capacity to undertake falls risk assessment within health care services in Swindon was key to achieving this goal, according to Public Health registrar Sarah Weld.
“Falls have been recognised as a real public health problem across the country,” she said at a meeting of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.
“What people underestimate is the psychological impact not only of falling but the fear of falling which makes people less confident in leaving the house.
“And as the population ages we are going to get more people falling.
“We are doing a lot of things to help in Swindon but we are trying to identify gaps and see what we can do more of in Swindon.
“The challenge is what we can do to help keep people healthy.
“There is a need for more training and having more multifactorial assessments.
“But they don’t necessarily have to be done by health professionals. We also need to look at how we can increase capacity on our strength and balance training.
“We also need to raise awareness through campaigns of the people most at risk, particularly people with dementia.”
To reduce the number in falls, Swindon Council is also considering training health and social care professionals as well as volunteers to raise awareness of falls and osteoporosis.
Most falls occur in the home, however incidence rates for falls in nursing homes and hospitals are two to three times greater than in the community and complication rates are also considerably higher. Fifty per cent of people aged over 80 were reported to fall across the course of a year.
More regular checks like falls assessment could benefit around 6,600 people.
While the direct result of fall leads to pain and injury, it also causes distress and can have life-long after effects such as loss of confidence or independence. In the most serious cases, falls can be fatal.
Dr Peter Crouch, clinical chairman of Swindon’s Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “So much more can be done and progress needs to be made on multiple fronts.”