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Improving access to prehabilitation for cancer patients

10 August 2023

Patient and doctor in healthcare environment - Cleifion a meddyg mewn amgylchedd gofal iechyd

£1.5 million has been awarded to the Cardiff University’s School of Healthcare Sciences to develop inclusive prehabilitation for cancer patients – helping patients to prepare for their treatment.

Prehabilitation helps people to prepare for cancer treatment through helping them to eat well, be in the best possible physical condition and supporting mental health and emotional resilience. This can lead to fewer treatment complications and better recovery.

The funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health and Social Care Delivery Research fund, will enable work to produce and evaluate a toolkit called I-Prehab. The toolkit will support cancer workers to raise awareness and encourage participation in prehab services for cancer patients.

“Improving access to prehab has significant potential health benefits for patients about to start cancer treatments. To ensure everyone who might benefit from prehab can access it, attention is needed to particular issues for people from socially deprived and ethnic minority communities.”
Professor Jane Hopkinson, researcher at Cardiff University and Velindre Professor of Nursing and Interdisciplinary Cancer Care

The researchers aim to work with patients, carers, cancer workers, and cancer service managers to develop the I-Prehab toolkit to overcome access barriers and provide tools to support adherence, particularly for those from socially deprived and ethnic minority communities.

“Patients and the public will play a key role in this work. Patient and public contributors will be involved throughout the research including data analysis, design of methods, patient facing documents, impact plan and effective sharing of information,” added Professor Jane Hopkinson.

Person walking down the road - Person yn cerdded i lawr y ffordd

Stuart Davies, Patient and Public Involvement Representative said: “After being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer 14 years ago and being chucked in at the deep end of treatment with little preparation, I realise that a concerted effort to promote Prehab, driven by a concerted study, can help people on their journey to get better. Better understanding of the data driven by better research can deliver better outcomes.”

This work is being undertaken in partnership with NHS, third sector organisations, patients, and community representatives.

Siân Lewis, Macmillan Lead Allied Health Professional for Cancer Services, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said: “Within Wales there are excellent well-established prehabilitation models, yet we know that health inequalities exist with those that would benefit greatly from prehabilitation not accessing these services. This work will translate the evidence into practice and provide us, the clinicians, a logical approach to ensuring that everyone has access to prehabilitation as early as possible in the Suspected Cancer Pathway.”

Rachel Evans, Macmillan Lead Cancer Allied Health Professional, Wales Cancer Network said: “It is widely acknowledged that prehabilitation prior to any cancer treatment can significantly enhance patient outcomes and experience. It is therefore vital that every patient diagnosed with cancer has access to individualised and accessible prehabilitation advice and support. This exciting and much needed research will explore how to overcome barriers to prehabilitation and ensure patients have every opportunity to prepare well for cancer treatment.”

“Our research will be reviewing current published research, together with an investigation of prehabilitation being offered to patients receiving treatment for upper gastrointestinal, bowel, lung, breast or prostate cancer across Wales.

“Results will be used to develop I-Prehab, a future way of working which can be used by cancer workers to increase prehab in Wales and England.

“By working with our partner organisations, we aim to make I-Prehab available across Wales and the UK in the future,” added Professor Jane Hopkinson.

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