Sloppy slipper amnesty to prevent falls

It is more flip-flops and sandals weather than sitting in front of the fire sporting a pair of comfy slippers.But pensioners in Suffolk are being urged to swap their old and worn “sloppy” slippers for a free new pair next week in a bid to reduce the risk of falls.

It is more flip-flops and sandals weather than sitting in front of the fire sporting a pair of comfy slippers.

But pensioners in Suffolk are being urged to swap their old and worn “sloppy” slippers for a free new pair next week in a bid to reduce the risk of falls.

Health chiefs said yesterday that the pioneering slipper amnesty would help cut the chances of old people having accidents at home and in turn save lives and precious NHS funds.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) will be handing out 600 brand new pairs of slippers to over 65-year-olds in the west of the county next week.

Officials say poorly fitting or worn and damaged footwear can lead to an increased risk of accidents, which can result in elderly people suffering a serious hip injury or losing confidence in their mobility and becoming isolated.

The Sloppy Slipper Exchange events, which coincide with National Falls Awareness Week, will also aim to handout free falls prevention advice, home safety tips and walking aid checks for west Suffolk residents, in a bid to help old people stay fit, healthy and independent.

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Ann Hunt, falls prevention coordinator for Suffolk PCT, said falls were the most common type of accident experienced by the elderly in their homes, but most of them could be prevented by “simple, inexpensive measures” like replacing unsafe slippers with new ones.

“Worn out slippers contribute to older people's slips, trips and falls and can have a huge impact on someone's life. They could injure themselves - at worst breaking a bone or hip, which is extremely debilitating. Not only does a fall cause pain and discomfort, it can mean they move from being totally independent to requiring 24-hour care.”

“Equally, people can lose confidence in their walking ability and can mean they stop going out on their own, isolating themselves and seriously affecting their quality of life,” she said.

Nationally, trips and falls account for half a million hospital bed days a year, fractured hip injuries cost the NHS a total of £1.8bn a year and more than 50pc of over 75s die as a result of the trauma of a fall related injury. In Suffolk alone, falls cost the health service nearly £6m in 2004/05.

Mrs Hunt added: “The majority of falls are preventable and predictable, but older people do not think they will fall until they are much older. Health promotion advice aims to help people understand more about falls. It is important to help people understand the positive effects gained from simple life changes, for example, recognising the benefits of home safety, regular exercise or the need of a walking stick.”

The slipper amnesty, which is funded by a £3,000 grant from the Local Strategic Partnership, will be run by local and district councils, Suffolk PCT, the voluntary sector and Suffolk County Council, at Walnutree Day Hospital, in Sudbury, on Tuesday , Brandon Day Centre, Brandon, on Wednesday and the Salvation Army Hall, at Haverhill, on Thursday, from 10am to 2pm.

Bruce Weetman, from the National Association of Blue Badge Holders, in Brandon, yesterday welcomed the new initiative, but shed doubt on whether 600 pairs of new slippers would reduce accidents in west Suffolk.

“It is a great idea and I'll be claiming my free pair of slippers, but in nine years of running a mobility helpline I've never come across a fall caused by slippers. Most falls happen because of rugs, bad flooring, or a lack of handrails,” he said