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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

New study to reduce falls for people with Parkinson’s disease

Published: 13 May 2013

Scientists at the University of Southampton have begun a new study to evaluate the benefits of exercises and strategies for preventing falls among people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson's disease is a common, progressive condition that affects the body's nervous system.  Over time people with Parkinson's disease are likely to become less steady, less able to move around within their homes and more prone to falls. Although drugs are available to treat the symptoms, balance control does not respond to drugs as well as some other symptoms. 

PDSAFE is a personalised treatment programme, which includes physiotherapy techniques that are tailored to the individual and have been shown to reduce symptoms and the number of falls.  

Now researchers, led by Professor Ann Ashburn at the University of Southampton, are to assess the benefits of PDSAFE and how cost effective it is.

Professor Ashburn comments: "Parkinson's disease mainly develops in people over 50 years of age.  It becomes more common with increasing age. In the UK only a small percentage (28 per cent) of people with Parkinson's disease have access to physiotherapy.  Preventing a cycle of inactivity and falls is a priority for health care workers but research into the benefits of disease specific exercises and strategies is limited.  We know that exercise can improve balance control but little work has been done on whether it actually reduces fall rates. We want to find out if patients who follow PDSAFE exercises fall less than those who don't and in turn, how cost effective that reduction can be."

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme, aims to recruit 600 people with Parkinson's disease from four areas in the South of England; Southampton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Exeter. Participants will be in one of two groups; one will receive PDSAFE and the other will not. Fall rates data will be taken, compared and analysed.

The University of Southampton will be working with the Universities of Newcastle, Oxford, Glasgow, Exeter and Leuven in Belgium, during the four-year study.

Notes for editors

1. People wanting to take part in the study should contact 023 8079 4583.

2. PDSAFE is a home-based personalised programme of exercises and strategies; to be delivered by physiotherapists with specific training in the intervention and use of DVD technology. The novelty lies in both the content (disease specific exercises and strategies for instability, use of motor relearning and cognitive awareness) and delivery (personalised feedback using DVD for adherence and self-management). The programme comprises exercises for balance, gait and muscle weakness, strategies for reducing freezing, encouraging stability and gait efficacy and feedback to promote learning and adherence.

3. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme funds research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 600 issues published to date. The journal's 2011 Impact Factor (4.255) ranked it in the top 10 per cent of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download, free of charge, from the website. The HTA Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern The NIHR is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website ( This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

For further information contact:

Becky Attwood , Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 5457, 07545 422512, email:

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