Involving volunteers in falls prevention is a way forward

A volunteer-led falls prevention support at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust sees volunteers visiting patients at home

Juliet Butler, physiotherapist and operational inpatient manager
Juliet Butler, physiotherapist and operational inpatient manager at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust

Every year, more than three million people aged 65 and over fall at least once and 5-10 per cent of those who fall sustain serious injury. Up to 40 per cent of older adults also fall within six months of discharge, with half of these incidents resulting in injury and a potential admission to hospital.

Physiotherapists are crucial in supporting patients in their recovery and discharge back to the community. As part of Kingston Hospital’s falls prevention scheme, in partnership with Helpforce (a charity that partners with health and care organisations to transform how they deliver volunteer services), volunteers are providing one-to-one support to patients both in the hospital and at home.

Video - Patient describes how the falls prevention volunteering initiative helped her to improve her fitness and confidence

For our own patients, we have seen fear of falls reduce by as much as 50 per cent and 100 per cent of patients improve on all functional fitness tests. Their confidence to cope at home also increased by as much as 50 per cent, further reducing the likelihood of a return to hospital. The success of this pilot has helped us to secure extra funding to extend this programme into nursing homes, GP surgeries and pre-operative assessments. 

Up to 40% of older adults fall within six months of discharge

Volunteers in the programme support patients to undertake a physiotherapy prescribed exercise programme at home, after being discharged from hospital, for up to eight weeks. Thanks to this programme, our physiotherapy team feel more reassured about the wellbeing of our patients as we know that there is a continuity of care in the community.

At a time when hospitals and social care are under unprecedented pressure, having the support from volunteers can make a huge difference. Volunteers improve outcomes for patients, staff and the system as a whole. By involving volunteers closely in our work, we will get the right help to ensure the best possible care for our patients. 

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