Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
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FOLLOWING a successful pilot that helped to prevent people falling at home staff from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) are now expanding the scheme to help even more people stay safe.
GMFRS worked in partnership with the National Health Service in Bury and Salford from August 2012 to January 2014 on a pilot scheme to identify people aged over 65 who were at higher risk from having a fire or falling in their home and ensure they were offered support and assistance.
GMFRS' Assistant County Fire Officer, Peter O'Reilly, said: "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 teamed up with two of our local health 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 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 thousands of Home Safety Checks (HSCs) were carried out in Bury and Salford resulting in hundreds of people being referred to their local health service to try and prevent them from having an unnecessary fall at home.
Chair of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor David Acton, said: "The pilot GMFRS carried out with Bury and Salford National Health Service was extremely positive.
"More than 91 per cent of the people we visited are now more aware of how they can prevent a fire at home and more than 80 per cent said they feel they are less likely to fall at home."
Mr and Mrs Watson from Bury had a HSC in 2013 and were referred to the falls team and they now both feel safer at home. The married couple have working smoke alarms and an escape plan in place, to use should they have a fire, and they also feel safer at home now they have handrails and a walking stick - thanks to the falls pilot.
Mr Alec Watson, aged 72, said: "We heard about the Home Safety Check service offered by the fire 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 us an extra handrail on the stairs, a rail outside the front door and gave my wife, Hazel, a walking stick."
Mrs Hazel Watson, also aged 72, said: "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 services and would highly recommend a visit if people are unsure whether to take up the offer."
Another happy lady who was referred to the falls team after having a HSC is 85-year-old Mrs Margaret Conroy, also from Bury.
Mrs Conroy said: "After having smoke alarms fitted by firefighters during a HSC 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."
Due to the success of the project, falls assessments and referrals are now part of GMFRS' core business. The next step is to roll out the initiative across the Service with Tameside and Wigan being the next boroughs to come on board along with Bury and Salford.
If you or someone you know would like a Home Safety Check that could result in referral to the falls team then call 0800 555 815 or visit www.manchesterfire.gov.uk