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Standing Tall – How Medequip's Falls Prevention Team Has Kept In Touch

Wirral Falls Prevention

The coronavirus pandemic has presented particular challenges for our Medequip colleagues operating the successful Falls Prevention Service on the Wirral. This dedicated team of falls prevention practitioners has focused on remaining engaged with their client groups, investigating different ways to reach out and continue their vital services.

The small, multidisciplinary Medequip Falls Prevention team consists of physiotherapists, and occupational therapist, nurses and technical instructors. They place the emphasis firmly on education and training on how to stay healthy, active and safe, prioritising fall-related research and establishing effective policies to reduce risk. The team has successfully built and enhanced services and facilities for patients, contributing towards a notable reduction in falls and associated costs for Wirral NHS.

Promoting confidence and independent living

The team is led by manager Julie Griffiths. "We're acutely mindful of the negative effects that reduced activity and resultant deconditioning can have on strength, mobility, confidence and independent living for our older population," she said. "Faced with lockdown and the forced cessation of our face to face activities, we looked at how we could continue our work and keep both staff and clients -- many of whom were shielding because of the age or medical conditions - safe and protected."

Technology has provided some very effective solutions. During the first lockdown, Julie and her team put together some 'explainer videos' to demonstrate such things as how to safely get up from the floor, good 'sit to stand' techniques and back loosening exercises before getting out of bed. These are complemented by online exercise classes and falls prevention advice. "It's essential to provide simple start, low risk, easy to access programmes for the older population, aiming to build up stamina and move on to full exercise sessions," explained Julie.

Partnering with Age UK to improve access to technology

Access to online information is a practical issue for some, so the Falls Prevention Service has partnered with Age UK on a scheme to loan out tablets to those without easy access to the internet. In addition, the team has used the time effectively to create a new exercise booklet which has been distributed to clients and through Age UK as well as being made available in locations such as pharmacies. This initiative is prompting significant numbers of self referrals to the service.

When shielding ended officially in August, there was real enthusiasm amongst both staff and clients to resume more normal service. So the team donned their PPE aprons, face shields and gloves and visited clients at their homes to teach exercises programmes on a 1:1 basis again whilst maintaining social distancing rules. Later lockdowns have brought this activity to a halt but the service will resume again as soon as regulations allow.

Continuing to have a positive effect

The commitment shown by the team continues to yield positive results. Clients are reporting that they are feeling the benefits of engaging with the service. "We have maintained an outcome of 78% of clients reporting no further falls 6 weeks after an intervention with Wirral Falls Prevention Service," confirmed Julie.

She continues to have concerns about the future. "We are anticipating an increase in the numbers of deconditioned elderly patients who will be prone to falls after being confined to their homes for so long. Now we have all received our vaccinations, we are looking forward to resuming normal service soon and playing a part in keeping them active and safe," she stated.

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