Bury and Salford reducing falls in the home

Falls are responsible for more than four in 10 deaths in the home. Fires by comparison cause less than one in 10. So firefighters in Bury and Salford are playing their part in trying to reduce accidents by identifying those who are at risk of falling as part of their day-to-day work.


Firefighters in Bury and Salford have been given advice and training on falls. They are now able to identify when people are at risk and refer them on to the local falls services where appropriate.  An evaluation of those who were helped shows that 80 per cent reported feeling like they were less likely to fall at home.

Falls are responsible for more than four in 10 deaths in the home. Fires by comparison cause less than one in 10. So firefighters in Bury and Salford are playing their part in trying to reduce accidents by identifying those who are at risk of falling as part of their day-to-day work.

Crews have been given advice and training on the warning signs to look out for and where they find someone who needs help they are able to refer them on to the local falls service. The scheme was launched as a pilot in 2012 and has proved so successful that it has become a permanent part of the firefighters’ work, as Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) Assistant County Fire Officer Peter O’Reilly explains.

Mr O’Reilly, who will take over GMFRS as Chief in June 2015, says: “National research shows that the older members of our community are at higher risk from both falls and having accidental fires at home so we decided to team up with two local services to improve the support available to these people. The project allowed us to put our existing home safety check service to better use. Along with the usual safety checks carried out by GMFRS’ firefighters and community safety teams we added an assessment on the risk of falls for people aged over 65 and referred those at higher risk to the health service’s falls prevention team.”

During the pilot, which ran for a total of 16 months, hundreds of people ended up being referred to the local falls service so steps could be taken to try and prevent them from having accidents at home. Beyond fighting fires – the role of the fire service in improving the public’s health 17 This has included steps such as handrails being installed and people being given walking aids. An evaluation of those who were helped shows that 80 per cent reported feeling like they were less likely to fall at home.

Alec Watson and his wife, Hazel, from Bury, are just one couple who have been helped. They were referred to the falls team in the latter part of 2013 and they now both feel safer at home.

Mr Watson, aged 72, said: “We heard about the home safety check service offered by the Fire and Rescue Service while at the doctors and were more than happy with our visit by firefighters – they fitted new smoke alarms and gave us safety advice. The crew talked to us about a falls team run by the health service and explained that we might be able to get some help with walking aids fitted around the home to help us get around.

“Soon after the falls team came to see us and fitted an extra handrail on the stairs, a rail outside the front door and gave Hazel a walking stick.” Mrs Watson, also 72, says: “The teams that visited us were very pleasant and even vacuumed the dust after fitting the rail on the stairs.

“Since getting my walking stick I haven’t fallen over so I’m very pleased we came across the service. We have nothing but praise for the service and would highly recommend a visit if people are unsure whether to take up the offer.”

Another woman who was referred to the falls team after having a home safety check was 85-year-old Margaret Conroy, also from Bury. Mrs Conroy says: “After having smoke alarms fitted by firefighters during a home safety check a therapist from the health service came to see me and talked over an exercise plan. I now go to the gym several times a week to strengthen my legs as I have suffered break injuries over the past few years.”

“I use two sticks to help me get around and am hoping to get down to one stick when my legs are stronger.”

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has recently launched another project to provide services to people at greater risk.

This pilot is being run in partnership with the North West Ambulance Service and Greater Manchester Police to reduce the demands on blue light services.

Community Risk Intervention Teams (CRIT) have been established in Salford, Wigan and Manchester to respond to low priority incidents such as falls or concern for welfare call outs, as well as carrying out the traditional home safety checks and other preventative activities.

They are also trained to offer risk reduction advice covering everything from health and wellbeing to crime, and can fit handrails and other measures to help prevent falls.

A team of 32 staff, including two coordinators, have been appointed and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The scheme only started being rolled out at the end of 2014 but by the start of March 2015 had attended over 1,000 homes.

GMFRS Head of Transformation Geoff Harris says: “Through the home safety check service we go into 60,000 homes a year and it has proved to be incredibly effective.”

“Over the last 10 years the number of fires have fallen by 40 per cent. But going into so many homes also provides us with an opportunity to help people in different ways. The falls work has been a great example of that and in the future we are hoping firefighters can be fitting some of the anti-falls measure rather than just referring people people on for help.”

“But we are always looking for new ideas – and CRIT is an example of that. There are huge demands on services and so we have to look at different ways of working. The project has been funded for six months, but the signs so far are really encouraging.”

Contact: harrisg@manchesterfire.gov.uk