Dealing with the impact of changes in older people’s strength and balance due to COVID-19 mitigation measures could cost the NHS £211 million, according to the report

Elderly fall

A new report published by Public Health England has looked at deconditioning in older adults because of COVID-19 mitigation measures, projecting an added £211 million cost to the NHS over two and a half years as a result.

Deconditioning—the loss of physical, psychological, and functional capacity due to inactivity—can occur rapidly in older adults, is not straightforward or quick to remedy and, among other health impacts, increases the risk of falls.

Wider impacts of COVID-19 on physical activity, deconditioning and falls in older adults models the impact of reduced physical activity on falls in older people (aged 65 and over), and the consequences for the health system.

Increased demand and costs

According to the report, deconditioning creates a risk that, without mitigation, the rate of falls in older people will increase, starting in the summer of 2021 as older adults engage in more physical activity as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The report suggests the increase in the rate of falls in older people is likely to continue if levels of physical activity remain at their current reduced levels. This may increase demand for falls services, the strain on hospitals due to emergency admissions, and health and social care costs.

The report projects that 110,000 more individuals will fall at least once in a year in the older adult population, equating to an additional cost to the health and social care system as a result of over 254,000 related falls of £211 million over two and a half years.

However, the report’s modelling also explored potential future scenarios to mitigate these impacts, stating that increasing strength and balance activity by 10% in all older adults compared with the level observed during the pandemic could reduce the number of falls by 9339 for males and 9506 for females.