Westmorland Hospital, Kendal

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has welcomed its one thousandth participant this month in a volunteer-led exercise programme designed to support older people, help prevent falls and reduce hospital re-admissions

Morecambe Bay is the first NHS trust in England to commission Royal Voluntary Service to run a chair-based exercise programme for older people on its hospital wards.  Launched in Morecambe Bay in July last year, the programme is delivered across locations at the Trust’s main sites at Kendal, Lancaster, Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston and Morecambe. Classes are funded by the Trust and are run by trained Royal Voluntary Service staff and volunteers.

There is a real need for these types of exercise programmes in later life to reduce sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength) which can be an underlying cause of falls.  It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65, and one in two of those over 80, will fall each year.

Feedback from those taking part in the programme – the majority of which are over 70, including some in their 90s – has been extremely positive.  One participant said: “I always walked away much better than I felt on arriving.  My muscles felt much more relaxed.”  Another said: “The benefits I got from the exercise were very good and the friendship from other members is great.  The trainers are very helpful and we have a laugh whilst exercising mind and body with friends.”

Barry Rigg, Community Engagement Manager for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust said: “I am delighted to hear that the chair-based exercise programme delivered by Royal Voluntary Service has welcomed its one thousandth participant. The programme continues to demonstrate impact in the physical function, independence and wellbeing of participants, as well as supporting the wider vision and objectives of UHMB. I would like to give special thanks to the dedicated work of the volunteers involved in this programme, who are a shining example of the benefit and value that volunteers can offer to improve the patient experience and increase the range of support available to individuals within our hospitals and throughout our communities”.

Evaluation of an eight-month pilot of the chair-based Move It or Lose It programme run in five locations across England last year showed significant improvements in physical function and mental well-being in frail older people in just ten to fourteen weeks.  Functional improvement was achieved in 61% of the sample and the pilot halved the number reporting that they were lonely (using the UCLA Loneliness scale).  One in four (26%) participants improved on happiness scores and over 10% fewer people reported being ‘extremely’ or ‘very anxious’ (using the ONS wellbeing measures).

Sam Ward, Director of Commissioned Services for Royal Voluntary Service said: “We’re delighted that the Morecambe Bay chair-based exercise programme has been so successful.  Resistance-based exercise is critical for older people because of rapid loss of muscle mass and strength – particularly following a period of illness, surgery or an accident. The physical benefits of the programme are clear, with the positive impacts on loneliness and isolation an added benefit.  Improved mobility helps older people live more independent lives and we would like to offer this type of exercise programme in hospitals across the country. We look forward to more NHS Trusts getting in touch to run programmes in their hospitals and settings.”

Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with over 20,000 volunteers supporting thousands of people each month in hospitals and in the community.  The simple acts of kindness volunteers provide, whether popping in for tea and a chat, helping out with a lift to a GP or social appointment or running chair-based exercises on ward to prevent pyjama paralysis, help make communities stronger and relieve the pressure on overstretched public services.  The charity is also one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafes and shops providing a valued haven in hospitals.

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