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Before the fall

The CSP and Age UK should work together to reduce falls and save lives and money, says Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK

In terms of today’s big health challenges for older people, preventing falls often gets overlooked.

Yet physiotherapists will be only too aware that falling over is the main cause of death from injury among the over-75s in the UK (see News story ‘Exercise keeps older people on their feet’, page 11).

The high numbers of falls also creates high financial costs  currently £2.3 billion a year of NHS spending.

Despite the scale of the problem, there are tried and tested ways of preventing falls.

We know that investing in falls services actually saves money in the long term.

The Department of Health estimates that for every £2 million invested in falls service, £5m could be saved through reduced NHS costs.

Unfortunately, physiotherapists will know that, in reality, this evidence is often ignored. Prevention is rarely a priority. As a result, many older people are not getting access to falls services and there are large variations across the UK.

There is a serious shortage of the kind of evidence-based exercise programmes that are often developed by physiotherapists and are crucial to improving strength and balance.

Worse still, public spending cuts threaten the future of falls services altogether in some areas.

Age UK’s Stop Falling, Start Saving Money campaign aims to improve access to evidence-based exercise programmes and support multifactorial falls-prevention services.

These aren’t easy battles to win in these financially challenging times. But the campaign aims to show that, with the right investment, we can not only improve older people’s health and well-being but also save money.

Age UK is asking MPs to become ‘falls champions’ and use their influence locally to call for falls services to be prioritised and protected from cuts.

But to really make MPs listen and act, we are calling on professionals such as physiotherapists to use their experience and authority to add weight to the funding debate.

If you want to see falls services protected in your area, email your MP today by visiting http://www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/falls

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