A project to help cancer patients improve their fitness has been hailed as a success, with better outcomes reported for their physical and mental health, and, for patients undergoing more complex surgeries, fewer medical complications and a cut in their length of stay in hospital.
The One Wirral Prehabilitation Service gives people with a cancer diagnosis the chance to become physically fitter ahead of treatment – and to help those who have already had cancer treatment to exercise more, which can lead to quicker recovery times.
Patients can take part in up to 15 exercise classes in different community venues across Wirral each week, join in from home or be part of a walking group.
More than 750 people in Wirral have been referred to the service after being diagnosed with cancer – nearly than double the target number – and 95% of them took up the chance to get more active, exercise more and meet others in a similar situation.
Patients leaving the service also had better mental wellbeing, reduced fatigue and were doing more exercise that before they arrived.
The project also had benefits for hospital inpatient stays at Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) including:
- 5% reduction in length of stay in colorectal and urological cancer patients
- Fewer complications in colorectal cancer patients after surgery
- Reduced readmissions for colorectal and urological cancer patients within 30 days
The pre-existing service was at risk of closure, and received Cancer Transformation Funding from Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance (CMCA), from June last year, allowing the service to continue operating and to expand, with the aim of creating better cancer treatment, care and outcomes for patients.
CMCA and WUTH pay social enterprise, One Wirral, to run the service, with funding running through to end in March next year.
Lucy Holmes, One Wirral CIC Wellbeing Lead, said, “Physical activity is being called a ‘wonder drug’ in cancer recovery. It can reduce secondary cancers by up to 60%, lessen treatment side-effects and help patients take control of their lives.
“I am excited by the impact this service has demonstrated on cancer patients in Wirral – it offers a more holistic and personalised approach to cancer recovery.
“The vast majority of people who have used the scheme are really pleased with their overall mental and physical wellbeing. The report evaluating the service also shows widespread positive outcomes for the health system.
“Building healthier and more resilient patient communities through services like this is vital in an age when one in two of us will develop cancer in their lifetime.”
Lucy said the scheme helps people optimise their psychology in the face of a distressing diagnosis and improve their quality of life after treatment. She said the scheme also helped people change their lifestyle, including with stopping smoking support and healthy eating information.
Feedback from patients using the scheme has been extremely positive, including from 59-year-old Graham Southern, who was referred to the service after surgery for prostate cancer.
Graham said, “I can’t recommend this service highly enough. The benefits to both your physical and mental wellbeing are immeasurable.
“When you are diagnosed with cancer it can be quite traumatic but when you attend the classes you are meeting people who have gone through similar experiences. Talking to them about what they have gone through is invaluable for your own recovery. It gives you an insight into what’s to come as different treatments progress.
“The team are extremely supportive, welcoming and inclusive – no matter what your fitness level – you don’t have to be Usain Bolt to attend! The exercise is tailored to you.
“Cancer patients should take this opportunity to improve their wellbeing whilst meeting others and sharing experiences – you’ll be made to feel very welcome. It’s so much more than just a fitness class.”
Dr Chris Warburton, CMCA Medical Director, said, “The analysis of this service is really encouraging and shows the benefit of exercise, not only for the cancer patients involved, but for the local healthcare system.
“It is great to hear such positive feedback from patients. There is never a bad time to improve your physical health, even after a cancer diagnosis, and exercise can have real benefits for swifter recovery and your mental wellbeing.”
CMCA is also funding similar projects in Liverpool and Cheshire.
For more information on the work of Cheshire & Merseyside Cancer Alliance, see https://www.cmcanceralliance.nhs.uk/
Image: One Wirral Prehab Service Team