Partnership with London Ambulance Service to pilot programme which aims to reduce calls to 999

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 Volunteer-led service will provide practical and emotional help to older people at risk of falls and social isolation

London ambulance
The Supporting you at Home service run by the charity, which will primarily be volunteer-led, will support older people through a programme of activity focused on improving their physical wellbeing and alleviating loneliness.

The service is being piloted in two London boroughs - Hackney and Merton - and aims to improve the health of older people and reduce the growth of frequent callers to the London Ambulance Service as a result of a fall or social isolation. To support the local population in those boroughs, volunteers are drawn from a range of ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Royal Voluntary Service will receive referrals from London Ambulance Service and partnering services to support older people who are frequent callers, either because of a fall or suspected loneliness. A Royal Voluntary Service staff member will then meet with the client at their home to assess their safety and emotional wellbeing and pair him/her with a suitable volunteer.

Following the assessment, Royal Voluntary Service will develop and deliver a bespoke, six week exercise session in the client’s home to help strengthen their muscles. Volunteers will also provide essential encouragement to motivate people to get out of their home and socialise more by joining local clubs or activities.

In addition, volunteers will supply clients with details of key non-emergency numbers to call if they need support, as well as discussing the importance of proper nutrition and hydration in later life.

It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65, and one in two over 80, will fall every year (NHS Confederation, 2012). Falls have a significant cost for the ambulance service and lead to poor outcomes for older people. The ambulance service is often the first point of contact when an older person falls and account for approximately 10-25 per cent of ambulance call-outs for the over 65s, costing around £115 per call-out. (NHS Confederation, 2012)

"We believe targeted support provided by our highly trained volunteers can make a significant difference in the physical and emotional wellbeing of older adults, reducing the chance of them falling, preventing loneliness and easing pressure on the London Ambulance Service. By working together with local people and the London Ambulance Service we hope to find a way to help older communities in London live happier and healthier lives at home."

Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy and Development, Royal Voluntary Service

"The ageing population means that falls are one of the most common reasons for calls to the ambulance service and these patients represent a disproportionate number of acute admissions to hospital. We hope this pilot with Royal Voluntary Service will not only reduce demand on both the ambulance service and A&E admissions but also improve outcomes in later life for the older people of Merton and Hackney."

Briony Sloper, Deputy Director of Nursing & Quality, London Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Royal Voluntary Service is recruiting its final batch of volunteers who are local to Hackney and Merton, especially those from BME backgrounds to reflect the diverse communities in which the services will be based. Volunteers will be asked to give a few hours of their time each week to help their older neighbours live independently at home. They will be provided with one full day of training and will be asked to commit to the end of this project in May 2018.

Credit: iStock.com/Livinus

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with over 25,000 volunteers supporting over 100,000 older people each month in hospitals and the community. The focus is on helping older people live the life they want to live through an array of social activities and more structured support. The charity is also known as one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafés and shops providing a valued haven in hospitals, while raising funds to support community work.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

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