Levelling Up Health and Wellbeing

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.

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.


Group 1
Who is it for?
Colorectal cancer patients in North Essex
Goal 1
Prime Objective:
to restore physical and emotional wellbeing
Goal 2
Second Objective:
to improve patients’ quality of life

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.

participants took part
sessions were held
partner organisations
I was referred by Onc/Gynae Specialist Nurse and I look forward to attending this class each week. I feel more energised afterwards and feel supported. My confidence in my ability has increased and it has given me the chance to meet new like-minded people. I find this really helps, as I am surrounded with people who understand the difficulties physically and mentally to overcome surgery following a cancer diagnosis.
Participant Alison, aged 60