The James Paget University Hospital in Norfolk is piloting a state-of-the-art prehabilitation programme that helps newly diagnosed cancer patients prepare for their treatment.
Initially the service will be offered to people in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area diagnosed with colorectal cancer with plans to extend this to other cancer patients as the pilot evolves.
Patients will be able to make use of a specially designed digital cancer care app to link them with their clinical teams and monitor progress. They will also have access to specialist exercise classes in a local gym and other lifestyle and psychological support.
The scheme has been developed in close collaboration with patient representatives, including Rod Earp, from the ‘Together Against Cancer’ patient user group. Rod said: “The programme aims to give patients maximum help in understanding their treatment options, how they will affect them and how they may best adapt so they can react to the new challenges their cancer treatments will bring.”
The pilot is funded by the East of England Cancer Alliance, which works as part of NHS England to transform local cancer services.
Patient representative Marion Foreman said: “When you get diagnosed with cancer there are no words to explain the myriad of emotions. Many of the things that are going to happen next feel out of your control. Being offered a place on a prehabilitation programme is like being thrown a lifeline – it answers that big question ‘what can I do?’”
Each patient is invited to attend an assessment clinic where their mobility and general health is assessed by an expert prehabilitation practitioner.
Recommendations are then made to help patients achieve the best possible level of physical and emotional wellbeing before their treatment starts, such as joining a specially designed exercise class for people with cancer, held at a nearby centre.
Nikki Sawkins, Cancer Prehabilitation Nurse Lead at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is evidence that suggests that prehabilitation cancer programmes not only help patients improve their general fitness and mental health but also help them recover from surgery and treatment more quickly.
“Our clinical team is excited to see the positive effects this programme offers to patients. For us it was important to be able to offer a more personalised experience before people start their treatment.”
Newly diagnosed cancer patients will be invited by the James Paget Hospital Prehabilitation Project Team to use a digital cancer care app developed by specialist company, Careology. This will allow patients and their family members or carers to track what is happening to them and have an easy way to communicate with their cancer care team.
Careology was chosen as the best digital cancer care solution by the patient group, based on a number of criteria including ease of use and functionality.
Careology will also provide virtual support whenever needed, with patients able to access trusted information from Macmillan Cancer Support, downloaded through a bespoke interface. Careology will also provide a ‘virtual ward’, with remote insights and data to allow clinical teams to safely monitor the patient and their progress.
The Cancer Alliance will evaluate the effectiveness of the prehabilitation programme and the benefits of the app after a six month pilot.
Lisa Motley, Programme Manager said: “The partnership with Careology and the James Paget Hospital enables us to deliver on the personalised care ambitions of the NHS Cancer Programme and to reinforce clinical care digitally in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.”
A patient directly involved in shaping the programme commented: “Knowing I can now help myself before I start my treatment is such a relief. It’s a really scary time when you’re waiting to receive treatment. The new prehabilitation programme and the app will now give me a sense of control and purpose.”
Marion Foreman added: “If you are offered a prehab programme my advice is to grab it with both hands – it has been designed with patients for patients and we just know it’s going to make a big difference to how we live with cancer.”
Paul Landau, CEO of Careology, said: “We are honoured to be part of this ground-breaking partnership – the very first-of-its-kind between a cancer alliance, an NHS Trust, a charity and a tech company. Seeing these different parties come together to collaborate and co-develop patient-first cancer care is enormously exciting and everyone at Careology is proud to be playing their part.”