This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 30 January, 2017
It’s that time of the year when it’s easy to stumble as footpaths are often icy and slippy.
Having a fall in later life can be a life-changing experience, potentially affecting the person’s confidence and on-going mobility if their recovery is not managed well.
Historically, frail Doncaster people who have had a fall have been taken to hospital for care but now they can recover at home, thanks to a new borough-wide scheme which launched last week.
Paramedics contact the new Rapid Response Falls Service after responding to someone who has fallen, who they have assessed as not needing hospital treatment but may benefit from extra help from short-term health and social care support to enable them to stay at home.
Initially operating from 8am to 8pm every day of the week, it brings together a ‘virtual’ team of specialists from Doncaster Council, local NHS and other health organisations, including geriatricians, nurses, occupational therapists, emergency care practitioners, physiotherapists and social care workers, who provide advice and support.
They jointly advise and agree a plan with the ambulance staff, then visit the patient at home to organise any necessary home-based help for up to 72 hours while they recover and regain their confidence. This can include specialist equipment like telecare alarms, practical support to help them live independently, plus personal care advice and exercise programmes to improve their mobility and balance.
The aim is to help them retain their independence and only go to hospital if they need further assessment or treatment that cannot be provided in their local community. We know from research that with the right support people can actually recover faster at home, as they are far more likely to retain their independence and mobility in their own environment.
Staff also look into the cause of the fall, arrange for any follow-up health checks to be carried out and provide advice on how to prevent further accidents from happening.
The scheme will be ‘piloted’ for six months and then formally reviewed and improved if necessary, and the hope is to extend it to other areas of local health care.
Between January and August last year, falls by Doncaster people aged 65 and over accounted for over 2,500 calls made to Yorkshire Ambulance Service and around 70 per cent of those patients were taken to hospital as a result.
Whilst some experienced major injury as a result of the fall, or had an illness that needed hospital treatment, a review found that a large number could have been cared for at home if a suitable fast response service – like the one we now have – had been available.
The scheme is a part of a wider local development called intermediate care, which is a key element of the recently launched Doncaster Place Plan and designed to provide support in many common situations, such as when an older person has a water or chest infection that can easily be treated at home, rather than in a hospital bed.