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A seven month pilot run by London Ambulance Service NHS Trust in partnership with Royal Voluntary Service has helped cut emergency calls and visits to A&E amongst frequent fallers in two London boroughs.
The active ageing pilot, running from November 2017 until May this year, was established to decrease the number of falls in the London boroughs of Merton and Hackney, hoping to reduce demand on both the ambulance service and hospitals as well as improve outcomes in later life.
As part of the scheme, older people who fall frequently and call 999 were referred to Royal Voluntary Service, who then paired local volunteers with clients. The volunteers visited clients in their homes and worked with them for a period of up to eight weeks to improve their physical function and well-being. As a result, there was a 42 per cent reduction in falls amongst clients, a 45 per cent decrease in calls from clients to 999 as a result of a fall and a 29 per cent reduction in clients being admitted to A&E.
Additionally, clients also showed improved physical function and health and well-being, with 60 per cent improving on a 30-second Sit to Stand test and almost 70 per cent improved on walking or gait speed in the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test.
Briony Sloper, deputy director of Nursing & Quality, London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: "We partnered with Royal Voluntary Service to test an innovative way to support what is a particularly vulnerable group. Recruiting local volunteers to support frail, often socially isolated people within their community has been extremely rewarding for everyone involved. It has highlighted the importance of working with volunteers and the role London Ambulance Service has, with its unique position of working across London, in identifying areas of need which are often hidden to the wider health and social care system. By working in a partnership like this that works across traditional, organisational boundaries, we are able to better connect communities and improve people’s quality of life.”
Dr Allison Smith, head of Strategy and Development at Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Frailty need not be an inevitable part of getting older. We know that targeted resistance-based exercises can significantly help older adults improve their physical function and reduce their risk of falls. Our volunteers received specialist training to provide 45-60 minute exercise sessions each week to help clients regain their independence. This included leg strengthening exercises to help them get out of a chair or off the toilet and arm exercises to help them get dressed and out of bed. We are very pleased with these results. Given the age and high levels of frailty of these clients and a relatively short period of intervention, such findings are very encouraging and suggest greater gains might be made with a longer support period."
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