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Suffolk's hazardous pavements shame

PUBLISHED: 11:21 17 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:31 05 July 2010

AS the February cold snap has brought added walking hazards associated with winter weather, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is urging local authorities in the East of England to make 2009 the year for carrying out repairs to broken and uneven pavements, improving safety and helping to protect people from unnecessary falls.

AS the February cold snap has brought added walking hazards associated with winter weather, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is urging local authorities in the East of England to make 2009 the year for carrying out repairs to broken and uneven pavements, improving safety and helping to protect people from unnecessary falls.

Figures show that 43pc of pavements in Suffolk are in need of repair, meaning the area tops the East of England regional league table for the percentage of pavements requiring structural maintenance. Luton is second in the league with 42pc.

Last year, the CSP called on local authorities to urgently address the problem of broken pavements, which can increase the risk of falls, especially for older people. However, 22pc of pavements in England are still in need of repair, only a 2pc improvement since the CSP last highlighted the problem.

Physiotherapy is fundamental in the treatment of injuries caused by falls, like fractures. For older people, physiotherapy addresses the emotional impact of falls as well as the physical effects, reducing “fear of falling”, improving confidence in walking outdoors, and restoring a more positive quality of life. Physios can also help with the prevention of falls by working with people who have conditions like Parkinson's disease that can make them more susceptible to falls.

Lynn Sutcliffe, spokesperson for the CSP and vice chair of AGILE (chartered physiotherapists working with older people), says: “Once an older person has fallen, it can seriously affect their physical and emotional wellbeing. It can make them anxious and limit their enjoyment of activities they previously enjoyed.

“Physiotherapists can help by developing a balance and strength training program specifically for them, which will bring back their confidence and sense of independence.

“Walking on uneven ground requires older people to be fit and strong, and able to withstand disturbances to their balance. If local authorities act sooner rather than later to fix the pavements that need repair, many unnecessary falls could be avoided.”

The subject of broken pavements was the theme of National Falls Awareness Day 2008, run by Help the Aged. The charity carried out research showing that 2,300 older people fall on broken pavements every day and nearly 80,000 of those who have fallen each year are subsequently afraid to leave the house.

Pamela Holmes, Help the Aged healthy ageing manager, said: "These new figures released by the CSP show that broken and damaged pavements still represent a significant problem for older people with mobility problems.

“Our own research suggested that councils are caught in a vicious circle. On the one hand they are required to sit on large sums of money to cover legal fees and compensation, and on the other they are cash-strapped when it comes to repairing pavements that may cause falls in the first place. It is vital that councils invest more money in keeping public walkways safe, as falls are a leading cause of death for over-75s and at the very least, one fall can shatter an older person's physical and mental well-being."

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