Falls are a major public health issue, being the second major cause of death and disability after road traffic accidents. They are the largest cause for emergency hospital admissions for older people and are a major precipitant of people moving from their own home to long term nursing or residential care. In the year 2019/2020, there were 234,793 emergency hospital admissions due to falls in people aged 65 years and over in England, of which 10,810 were in Greater Manchester. Six out of the ten GM boroughs recorded higher hospital admissions due to falls than England overall. In hospital settings, falls in older adults are the most commonly reported incidents in older people. Women are more likely than men to fall and often sustain fragility fractures as a result. In terms of socio-economic status and ethnicity, GM level data insight related to falls and falls prevention found that falls were more common in areas of social deprivation and were more frequent amongst Black and mixed ethnic groups.
For those who are active, integrating strength and balance into activity twice per week can help prevent muscle deterioration which can happen as we progress through midlife, whilst for those who notice that they are not able to do as much as before the pandemic, or those living with single or multiple long term conditions, evidence based strength and balance activity interventions (such as the Falls Management Exercise programme) can reduce the possibility of falling and injuring oneself. This programme also reduces fear of falling, whilst also increasing confidence and ability to do the things that are important to us – seeing friends, shopping, taking part in our community, travelling into the city, etc. Therefore, preventing and reducing the impact of falls is a key priority for Greater Manchester at the forefront of preventative integrated health and social care frameworks to support active ageing.
On Friday 21st January 2022 Greater Manchester partners together presented their collective falls prevention priorities. The well attended event launched a GM Falls Collaborative and a comprehensive report that focuses on the prevention of falls and enablement of reconditioning for Greater Manchester residents affected by the pandemic. It builds on earlier work undertaken in partnership with the University of Manchester’s Healthy Ageing Research Group and GreaterSport supporting GM Moving, which was focussed on improving strength and balance from mid through to later life.
Speaking at the event, Hayley Lever CEO GreaterSport and Executive Lead for GM Moving said: “Movement and activity is so important to us all in older age; for our physical and mental health and wellbeing. The impact of the pandemic on older adults will be felt for some time to come, so we need to come together to design movement back into our lives, to support collective recovery, reduce isolation, improve strength and balance and support reconditioning and falls prevention."
As part of the implementation of the GM Moving in Action Strategy, this report and the launch of a Falls Collaborative are important steps towards Active Lives for All. It has been fantastic to see how partners across health, community, physical activity, research and many more have worked together to get to this point. I am looking forward to seeing the Falls Collaborative take this work forward into action, and support people and communities right across Greater Manchester.
Professor Chris Todd Professor of Primary Care & Community Health, University of Manchester said: “We know from the evidence that falls are not inevitable and can be prevented. Evidence based strength and balance interventions are extremely effective in reducing a person’s risk of falls. However, it’s vital that the right programme is delivered at the right time to the right person and very importantly by trained health, care and fitness professionals such as physiotherapists and specialist exercise instructors. As a result of the pandemic and the reduction in activity, in particular strength and balance activities over the last two years, it is vital that we now address the deconditioning that has resulted through rolling out and scaling up the evidence-based programmes we know are effective. We should also encourage those in mid-life and later life to integrate strength and balance activity regularly as part of their return to movement”.
Warren Heppolette Executive Lead, Strategy & System Development, Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership said: “The evidence we have of what helps prevent falls, alongside the knowledge of how much harm can occur when people do fall makes action essential. We have the chance to connect communities, local activities and support, and our clinical and academic expertise to spread the good practice which exists in some parts of GM and make sure it happens everywhere”.
Partners are planning the first GM Falls Collaborative Event on community-based strength and balance provision in March. This will be aimed at commissioners, service deliverers, the fitness and leisure industry and practitioners. The date of the event is to be confirmed, keep your eye on GM Moving's Twitter account for the event announcement.
For further details on how to get involved with this work across Greater Manchester, please contact Beth Mitchell, Active Ageing lead at GreaterSport.
As part of Greater Manchester’s local pilot project, Tameside Council is supporting its region’s organisations to find more opportunities to adopt active workplaces and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of their teams.
These events bring people and partners together across GM to share and explore stories, challenges and expertise that help make GM a better place for people to walk, cycle, wheel and to live active lives.
GM Moving Partners' Commitment to Inclusion: Creating a Greater Manchester that enables active lives for disabled people and people with long-term conditions.