NAME: Pamela Holmes.
JOB: Programme manager, preventing falls.
QUALIFICATIONS: BSc nursing studies, state
LAST JOB: Project officer, Health Promotion
FIRST JOB: Editorial assistant.
Every five hours in the UK an older person dies as a result of
an accidental fall at home and thousands are seriously injured each
year. Indeed, one in five older people who suffer a hip fracture
will die within six months. And with falls representing more than
half of hospital admissions for accidental injury, it is
unsurprising that the NHS spends an estimated £981m on
treating people who have falls.(1)
With such alarming statistics, it is equally unsurprising that
efforts are being made to promote older people staying fit and
healthy. The preventing falls programme has been at Help the Aged
for nearly three years. Programme manager Pamela Holmes says: “It
came out of the avoiding slips, trips and broken hips work which
was jointly funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and
Health Promotion England. The funding for that work ended but Help
the Aged saw that falls were a major issue for older people and
took it on.”
The programme’s work has looked broadly at falls prevention but has
also encouraged participation of older people themselves. Holmes
says: “Perhaps the area had previously been professionally driven
but we brought in the voice of older people, and this has been
integral to our programme.”
It was the desire to convey a positive message on maintaining
independence that led to the idea of a national awareness day. “We
had a very positive response from professionals,” Holmes adds. “We
then had to think carefully about what we could and couldn’t do,
taking into account budget, personnel and so on.”
Given that the preventing falls team comprises Holmes, a project
officer and an administrator, it was apparent that activities would
have to be set up by local organisations and people’s forums acting
on the back of Falls Awareness Day on 19 July.
“That took us into the planning stages,” says Holmes. “We
started work on the project in November 2004 as we knew we and
others would need plenty of time to put plans in place and allocate
resources. We agreed the aim of the day, the objectives we wanted
to achieve and the tactics of how to get where we wanted. We
thought about our target audiences and key messages and the
marketing and promotional work to support that.”
Thirty partner organisations, including Age Concern, Alzheimer’s
Society, British Geriatrics Society and the Royal College of
Nursing, signed up to support the work, which included gaining
access to databases, e-mail contacts and newsletters.
Now well into the operational phase, Holmes has been keen to
maintain the campaign momentum. Last month, Help the Aged, in
partnership with Southampton University, unveiled research showing
that people in their seventies thought falls had nothing to do with
them and the problem was more relevant to frailer and older people.
Others felt that falls were inevitable and that nothing could be
done about them. A summary, “Don’t mention the f-word”, can be
downloaded from Help the Aged’s website.
The main messages of Falls Awareness Day are: it is possible to
remain strong and mobile at all ages; everyone can actively improve
their balance; falls do not have to be an inevitable part of
getting older; and it is never too late to start reducing the risk
of a fall.
For Holmes, the pieces are slotting together. “It comes down to
our discussions around what would or would not work – the do’s and
don’ts of it all. We can’t compete with the resources of, say,
national No Smoking Day but if you think creatively and join forces
with partner agencies you can achieve an awful lot,” she says.
- Avoiding Slips, Trips and Broken Hips, Department of Trade and
Industry and Health Education Council, 1999
- Research your market fully.
- Have clear aims, objectives, plan and evaluation.
- Make sure you leave plenty of time to plan for you and
- Ignore any criticism – just get the job done.
- Go for the big bang – don’t release anything until the day
- Be selective in promotion – people will be bored if they keep
hearing about it.