Gateshead Health NHS supporting frailty patients with new strength and balance service

A new service has launched for mildly and moderately frail over-65’s who have a history of falls, fear of falling and feel they are losing independence due to reductions in their strength, balance and confidence.

Strength and balance class participants
Strength and balance class participants

Gateshead Health NHS has launched a new service for mildly and moderately frail over-65’s who have a history of falls, fear of falling and feel they are losing independence due to reductions in their strength, balance and confidence.

This service is working in partnership with Gateshead NHS Community Services and Gateshead Council Public Health which includes 12 trained staff to deliver the strength and balance classes in various venues across Gateshead.

Due to the pandemic, many older people experienced increased frailty, more falls, reduced confidence and exercise tolerance.

This service aims to improve their independence, confidence and reduce fall-related hospital admissions, whilst promoting ‘healthy ageing’ and lifelong participation in exercise and activity.

Patients will be referred to this service by a health professional and then the NHS strength and balance team will complete a telephone appointment and a home visit to ensure a full risk assessment is done to identify any risks both inside and outside of the home.

The strength and balance team supports patients by asking the patients to set their own goals, whether this is walking to the bus stop, getting the bus or simply getting into their garden or house independently.

Patients are then taught appropriate strength and balance classes at a nearby venue, continuous support and information and activity opportunities.

These classes aim to improve strength, balance and reduce the risk of falls whilst improving confidence and independence.

The classes are free and run once a week for 14 weeks and new classes are being rolled out over the next 18 months.

Here is what patients have to say about the strength and balance service:

Eddie, aged 85 – class participant:

“I’m feeling apprehensive as I haven’t been out of my house for months and I am very unsteady on my feet.  I have fallen in my garden 4 times in the past few years and struggle to get back up, so I’ve had to call for help.  I live alone and can feel quite lonely”.

Week 5

“I’m feeling much stronger and more confident and have even walked into my garden for the first time in over a year.  I really look forward to the weekly classes and they are the highlight of my week.  Since attending the classes, I’ve noticed that my legs feel much stronger and I don’t worry about them giving way now. 

Week 11

I’ve started driving again and for the first time I drove myself to the class today.  After this class, I’m going to the tip, something I haven’t been able to do in a long time!  I’ve also been walking to my local park several times a week and feel more positive and confident.  I’ve lost a bit of weight and can now walk with a walking stick rather than with my 3 wheeled walker”.

Jean, aged 83 – class participant::

Week 1

“I’m keen to do the classes as I want to become more independent again.  I used to go dancing regularly but haven’t been for years”

Week 5

“Last week, I went on a bus to the metro centre for the first time in two and a half years.  The classes have given me the confidence to do this again and it felt wonderful.”

Week 11

“This week during the night, I fell over in the bathroom but I managed to get myself back up and returned to bed.  I live alone.  I was fine and I don’t think I would have been able to get myself up if I hadn’t been attending the classes, as they have made me stronger and more confident”.

Patricia, aged 70, class participant:

“After many falls I completely lost my confidence going outside on my own and didn’t venture out for several years throughout the pandemic.  The classes have given me more confidence to go outside on my own again and I’ve noticed that I am completing exercises that several weeks ago, I was unable to do”.

For more information on this service, please contact Claire Shroufi at claire.shroufi@nhs.net