North Essex Cancer Prehab & Rehab Pilot
Physical activity interventions for pre and post treatment
Due to patients suffering significant delays to diagnosis and treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was identified that colorectal cancer patients would benefit from physical activity interventions to improve their outcomes, reduce length of stay in hospital and improve their experience and quality of life.
The pilot has been made possible, by the collaboration of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Colchester Leisure World, Clacton Leisure Centre, Cancer Wellbeing Centre and Active Essex, with funding from the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund.
By adopting a multi-modal approach, focusing on psychological, physical and nutritional wellbeing, patients were educated on leading a healthy lifestyle and could attend weekly exercise classes in Colchester and Clacton leisure centres. The projects development plan was designed to ensure patients were in good physical shape before surgery and to continue the exercise classes for a total of 15 weeks once they were fit enough post-surgery and treatment. Prehab exercise classes, swimming classes and rehab exercise classes were offered to patients, alongside the option to participate in the other fitness initiatives that the Cancer Wellbeing Centre in Colchester provided.
Active Essex built relationships between the local authority leisure centres and East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, to upskill instructors to become Cancer Rehab qualified, whilst sourcing funding via the Sport England Tackling Inequalities fund.
Although the prime reason for developing this programme was to help ensure patients were physically ready for treatment and surgery after long waiting times during Covid, patients formed unofficial support groups, benefitting emotionally and physiologically from shared experience and support. This has been particularly prevalent throughout patients’ recovery, in their motivation to self-manage and in building their confidence to access further support when needed.
It was challenging to recruit patients to the Prehab classes, due to Covid-19 and the necessary isolating. As there has often been a limited time span between diagnosis and surgery, patients did not feel able to fit in Prehab classes due to ongoing commitments and preferred to attend the Rehab alone. Further work into developing this area, as isolation and restrictions begin to ease, will be important.