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England's most hazardous pavements are in Yorkshire and Humberside

CSP press release published on 16 January 2008

Physios call for repairs to help protect older people from falls

Physiotherapists are warning that older people are at risk from unnecessary falls this winter because of broken and uneven pavements. Figures published today by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) show that 24 per cent of pavements in England are in need of repair and maintenance. With the added hazards that winter weather conditions can bring, the CSP is calling on local authorities to carry out the necessary repairs, and asking older people to take extra care when walking outside. The figures reveal that older people in Yorkshire and Humberside could be most at risk - the region has the highest percentage of pavements that need structural maintenance at 33 per cent. The North East has the lowest percentage at 19 per cent. Physiotherapy is fundamental in the prevention and treatment of injuries caused by falls. The most common injuries in older people seen by physiotherapists are fractures, but falls can be devastating in more than just a physical way. Physios regularly see older people suffering from decreased confidence, social isolation and a loss of independence, as well as a fear of falling again. Help the Aged have carried out research showing that 2.5 million people aged over 65 in the UK have fallen to the ground due to damaged or uneven pavements (a). Research shows that physiotherapy plays a key role in falls prevention amongst people aged 65 and over (b). According to physios, people in this age group are most at risk of falling due to reduced balance, loss of muscle strength and declining eyesight. Other factors include reduced reactions, existing health problems like stroke and heart conditions, and side effects of medication. Vicki Goodwin, spokesperson for the CSP and Chair of AGILE (Chartered Physiotherapists working with Older People), says,

'For many older people, having a fall is much more than just the risk of a fractured wrist or hip. It can affect their confidence to go outside, isolating them socially and increasing their dependence on others. 'Physiotherapists can undertake in-depth risk assessments and aid recovery from falls through tailored rehabilitation, working with older people to increase their strength and balance, and help restore their confidence. 'Prevention would of course be easier if everyone could feel confident that public pavements and walkways were not presenting a hazard, especially in the winter months when ice and winds can make more vulnerable people feel unsteady.'

Help the Aged is supporting the CSP's call for better maintenance of England's pavements. Pamela Holmes, Help the Aged Head of Healthy Ageing Programme, said:

'The CSP figures show the appalling state of paving in the UK which we know is a major cause of falls and hospitalisation for older people. Older people should not have to live in fear of falling on dangerous footpaths when they leave home. 'Help the Aged started campaigning last year for better pavements across the UK on National Falls Awareness Day. This year, we are working with older people concerned about local paving to take action with their local councils and we encourage the public to report problem areas.'

Ends

Notes to editors

  1. CSP analysis of data on footways requiring structural maintenance is drawn from the latest Local Government Compendium for 2005/06 compiled by the Audit Commission. Figures are supplied to the Audit Commission by local authorities. The full English regional breakdown is below: Best Value Performance Indicator 2005-2006 Percentage of footways requiring structural maintenance England average 24 Regional averages Yorkshire and Humberside 33 North West 26 East Midlands 26 West Midlands 23 Eastern 23 London 23 South East 20 South West 20 North East 19 Source: Audit Commission Local Government Compendium
  2. For more information, please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 6628. Out of hours please call Becky Darke on 07900 160349.
  3. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 49,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. See more previous releases on this website.
  4. This year's Help the Aged National Falls Awareness Day is on the 24th June 2008 with hundreds of falls awareness events expected to take place across the UK. In the lead up to the day Help the Aged is campaigning for pavement repairs to prevent falls. Members of the public can report dangerous pavements to their councils by emailing falls@helptheaged.org.uk to order a campaign postcard.
  5. It is estimated that one in three people aged over 65 and one in two aged over 80 suffer a fall at least once a year. Feder, G.; Cryer, C.; Donovan, S. & Carter, Y. (2000) Guidelines for the prevention of falls in people over 65: the guidelines development group [Electronic version] British Medical Journal 321 p.95-99
  6. Falls are the leading cause of injury mortality in older people aged over 75. Both the government's National Service Framework for Older People in 2001 and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004 have highlighted the need to prevent such falls. Department of Health, 2001

References

  1. Spotlight survey by GfK/NOP for Help the Aged. 1095 interviews of older people (aged 65+) were conducted across the UK in February 2007.
  2. Day, L.; Fildes, B.; Gordon, I.; Fitzharris, M.; Flamer, H. & Lord, S. (2002) Randomised factorial trial of falls prevention among older people living in their own homes. British Medical Journal 325 p.128 Campbell, A. J.; Robertson, M. C.; Gardner M. M.; Norton, R. N.; Tilyard, M. W. & Buchner, D. M. (1997) Randomised controlled trial of a general practice programme of home based exercise to prevent falls in elderly women. British Medical Journal 315 p.1065-1069.

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