Stroke survivors: new ideas from Australia and New Zealand could help prevent falls

Published: 27 Nov 2017

Author: Victoria Butler
Stroke survivors: new ideas from Australia and New Zealand could help prevent falls

International approaches to preventing falls for people recovering from strokes have been identified in a new report by Victoria Butler, a physiotherapist from Teesside who spent six weeks in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year conducting research in this area. Her travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, in partnership with the Burdett Trust for Nursing.

There are 255,000 falls-related emergency hospital admissions per year for older people in England and the annual cost of hip fractures due to falls in the UK is estimated at being around £2 billion. Stroke survivors are at greater risk of falling both as inpatients and through their post-stroke life.

There is currently no cohesive nationwide falls program in the UK. Victoria (pictured) chose to visit Australia and New Zealand for her Fellowship as they have both developed falls prevention programmes which are being used in the community in a systematic and targeted way.

Highlights from Victoria’s trip included meeting Professor Cathie Sherrington and Professor Lindy Clemson from Sydney University, who spoke about the importance of increasing GP awareness of falls prevention services and exercises. In New South Wales, she learnt about Stepping On, a falls prevention programme which had demonstrated a 31% reduction in falls in an intervention trial, and had subsequently received further funding. Her report recommends that the UK should implement an integrated system to screen for individuals at risk of falling, so they can be referred to the appropriate interventions and services.

Victoria also witnessed examples of physiotherapists playing a key role in enabling survivors of strokes to access preventative exercise classes. In Melbourne, physiotherapists from Peninsula Health had provided input and expertise to develop long term community-based circuit classes which were being led by appropriately trained physiologists and volunteers.

“Physiotherapists are ideally positioned to drive collaboration between the health care system and leisure, community and social care providers, enabling stroke survivors to easily access appropriate interventions. The medical system, social care and community providers need to be actively working together with a long-term vision of a healthy and active population, regardless of disability” -Victoria Butler

Now back in the UK, Victoria plans to trial an intervention aimed at improving falls awareness in stroke survivors, which will be based on the Lifestyle Integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) program developed by Lindy Clemson and colleagues at Sydney University. She will also present her findings at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy North East Regional Network.

Read Victoria’s report here

Contact: vbutler501@gmail.com

Partner: The Burdett Trust for Nursing

The aim of our partnership with Burdett Trust is to improve the health and well-being of patients, a key element of our awards for Medicine, Health & Patient Care. The Burdett Trust makes grants in support of nurse-led projects, using its funds to empower nurses and make significant improvements to the patient care environment. For more details, see www.btfn.org.uk.