Focus on falls

Vision and falls

Across the UK, falls are the most common cause of hospitalisation for people aged over 65, and of accidental death in those aged over 75. Undetected and untreated visual impairment plays a significant role in the high incidence of falls among older people. This prompted us to investigate ways in which we could reduce vision-related falls and encourage better connections between local falls services and community optometrists.  

We have been working with the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) to support local optical committees (LOCs) and local eye health networks (LEHNs) in prioritising falls awareness. Our activities have included:

  • publishing Focus on Falls - a report outlining and promoting the pivotal role that improving vision has in preventing falls
  • briefing parliamentarians, key stakeholders and falls leads in the four nations
  • encouraging the development of a falls and vision pathway and recommending improved falls provision in the Map of Medicine for Low Vision
  • working with Thomas Pocklington Trust to distribute an easy-to-use tool for screening older people for poor vision to falls services teams across the UK. Contact olivier.deneve@college-optometrists.org for more information and to place an order
  • working with DOCET to incorporate findings from the report in their Ageing Eye CPD materials
  • encouraging falls team to register on the UK-wide falls directory. This will help our members make contact, provide support and refer any patients identified as needing falls teams services.

“ I believe that there is much that can be done to support falls teams to reduce the unnecessarily high number of falls that could be related to vision. With a little effort we can make a huge difference to the safety and quality of life for our most vulnerable patients. ”

Olivier Deneve, College Policy Manager and Falls Project Lead

Falls report

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  • Usually bullet points

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Support for falls teams

The findings of our Focus on Falls report suggest that around 50% of UK falls teams currently assess patients' vision as a standard part of their service, although there is variation in the frequency and method of these checks. This variation is generally due to a lack of resource and capacity within a team. Most falls teams contacted advised that they would welcome support in performing vision checks and that referral between falls teams and optometrists would help improve the patient pathway and foster greater levels of clinical continuity. In response to these findings, we are developing ways to work with falls teams. 

Eyes right? Order a free vision checking toolkit

The College is working with the Thomas Pocklington Trust to distribute the easy-to-use Eyes Right tool for checking vision. Developed by occupational therapist, Suzy England, it can be used by anyone but is especially useful for those working in a community setting. The toolkit includes a flip chart with pages suitable for reading close to and in the distance, an occluder to cover one eye while the other is being tested, a tape measure and clear instructions on how to carry out a test. Please note this is just an indicative sight test and does not replace a full eye examination or find underlying eye conditions. 
Email:olivier.deneve@college-optometrists.org to place your order a free toolkit.

Find a local optometrist

We have developed a Falls Directory and are encouraging our members to make contact with their local Falls Team when they identify risk. Please add your contact details to the directory and update them as necessary.