Virtual prehabilitation programme launches for Kent and Medway cancer patients

6 July 2020

The Kent and Medway Prehabilitation Programme is a trail-blazing programme that aims to improve the health and fitness of cancer patients, through exercise, nutritional advice and psychological support to help people lose weight, improve fitness and feel mentally strong and ready for their treatment.

The programme which started as a hospital-based pilot, has quickly adapted to the challenge of Covid-19 by offering the same extensive support online.

Exercise advice is delivered through video-guided resistance training sessions, patients receive phone calls twice-a-week from the exercise physiologists and the psychology professionals, and they are also referred on to other virtual support services such as smoking cessation and alcohol reduction services. 

The virtual service is available to all cancer patients in Kent and Medway before they undergo surgery or cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy. These simple health interventions also have a proven effect on the recovery time of patients after surgery

The service, which has its own patient feedback steering group to help shape its development, has received really positive feedback, not just about the practical features of the service, but the mental wellbeing aspects of having regular contact with a healthcare professional to support any feelings of stress and anxiety while coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Results from the first three months of the online service delivered during the pandemic have shown:

  • 100 per cent compliance with the individually-prescribed exercise programmes proves that virtual prehabilitation is as effective as a face-to-face service.
  • Improved connectivity for patients who are shielding or isolated
  • Improved mental health through the increase and regularity of physical exercise

The service for patients across the county is delivered by Medway Council in partnership with Public Health England and funded by the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance. 

It will be offered face-to-face to all Kent residents newly diagnosed with cancer when government (Covid-19) guidance allows.

GPs, cancer care and healthcare professionals can refer patients to this service via the website: Patients can also self-refer via the website.

Marjorie's story

It was not long after having a full hip replacement that 80 year-old Marjorie Jarvis found a something unusual in her left breast.

The active grandmother and retired office worker was diagnosed with breast cancer and facing another major operation.

At her surgery pre-assessment appointment, Marjorie was approached by the Prehabilitation Team and after an initial assessment was offered the chance to join a short, focused intervention which promised to improve her health and fitness and shorten her recovery time after surgery for breast cancer.

Marjorie joined the prehabilitation programme for four weeks before her surgery to learn how to improve her diet, to improve her fitness through exercise and she was also offered psychological support as she prepared for her operation.

She said: “After my hip operation, I was actually amazed that I could achieve what they asked me to do. It gave me the motivation to try and move more and made me think about what I’m eating. I felt more confident about how I was going to recover because I felt fitter than before. I am so delighted I had the prehab opportunity!”

Marjorie had breast cancer surgery in early February and this picture of her was taken just a few weeks afterwards.

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