LOCs playing a key role in Vision and Falls Awareness Campaign
23 September 2019
Across the UK every year 280,000 people end up in A&E after a fall, costing the NHS £1.5billion. Falls cause distress and can have devastating long-term impacts on physical and mental health. But when someone suffers a fall, how many consider the possibility that poor eye health and vision problems may be the cause?
Raising awareness of the links between falls and underlying health conditions, including problems with vision, is the aim of a major falls prevention campaign running in the North East and Yorkshire this week to coincide with both National Falls Prevention Week and National Eye Health Week. The campaign is the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration between NHS England and Improvement, North East Regional LOCs, North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and Public Health England.
Stephanie Cairns, Chair of Northumberland Tyne and Wear LOC, who has been spearheading the optical sector’s involvement, explains what the campaign hopes to achieve: “The main aim of this campaign is to encourage people to report their falls to a GP so they can explore the reason why this has happened, it might not just be due to tripping over something, there could be an underlying health issue, and this may be related to vision.
“The campaign will also give advice on how to prevent falls including promoting the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests.”
The multi-faceted campaign is being supported by the regional LOCs, who have helped design a social media toolkit and posters for use by optical practices, charities and community groups. To raise awareness of visual issues LOCs will be providing vision training sessions for hospital falls teams and will also be helping people complete the Newcastle/Gateshead Healthwatch Falls and Vision Questionnaire, which will give insight into how people perceive the links between falls and poor vision. Stephanie will be taking part in a two-hour programme on local radio station Spice FM alongside colleagues from pharmacy, general practice and occupational therapy, which will discuss the steps over-50s can take to prevent falls.
Stephanie explains how LOC involvement in the campaign came about: “I’ve been attending the multidisciplinary North East Regional Falls Task Group for about a year, with the aim of raising awareness of LOCs as an important resource and promoting the issue of eye health among non-optical NHS professionals and related charities. I found that there was a real lack of awareness of primary care optometry and the fact that eye health checks are about more than finding out if someone needs glasses, but also about detecting early signs of disease which, if effectively treated, can reduce the risk of incidents such as falls. When the falls campaign was developed, we were in the right place to ensure the eye health message became an important part of it.”
It’s not just making NHS professionals, charities and community groups aware of the link between poor vision and fall risk, optometrists play an important role too, as Stephanie explains: “We’re encouraging optometrists to consider fall risk when they see patients and offer advice on prevention. Many optical practices have long-term relationships with patients and witness changes in mobility as well as vision, if an optometrist suspects or is told that a patient has suffered a fall, they should advise the patient to visit their GP to find out if an underlying health condition may have caused it.”
Optical practices are being encouraged to talk to patients about the campaign and raise awareness through their newsletters and social media, display the College of Optometrists Falls Awareness posters in their practice and cover falls awareness and spectacle selection in staff training sessions.
As part of wider involvement in the Falls Task Group the LOCs have also provided input into the re-development of the multidisciplinary regional falls strategy. Stephanie explains why this is so important: “We need the wider body of healthcare disciplines to understand the value that LOCs and the optical sector can contribute to effective integrated care. By taking part in groups like these we are raising awareness of our capabilities and the role that eye health has to play in the public health environment.”
The LOCs involved in developing the regional falls prevention campaign are: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear LOC; North Cumbria LOC; Durham LOC; Tees LOC. The LOCs who are invited to support the campaign and take part are Bradford LOC; Calderdale & Kirklees LOC; Doncaster & Bassetlaw LOC; East Yorkshire LOC; Leeds LOC; North & North East Lincolnshire LOC; North Yorkshire LOC; Rotherham & Barnsley LOC; Sheffield LOC and Wakefield LOC.
Falls Prevention Week and National Eye Health Week take place from 23-27 September. Follow @LOCSU on twitter to see the campaign in action.