Patient participant John Haigh demonstrates typical Prehabilitation assessments
Patient participant John Haigh demonstrates typical Prehabilitation assessments

Princess Anne met with staff and patients on her visit to the specialist cancer programme.

As Patron of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Her Royal Highness alongside Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham and representatives from the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, was introduced to a number of staff working on the specialist cancer programme, including exercise specialists, people affected by cancer enrolled on the service, its Clinical Director Dr John Moore and its Allied Health Professional (AHP) Occupational Therapist Clinical Lead Zoe Merchant.

The Princess Royal was shown several demonstrations of typical prehabilitation assessments and interventions and heard first-hand the impact this programme is having on patients’ physical and mental wellbeing in the lead up to and after cancer treatment. She also heard how the programme adapted to a virtual delivery model during the Covi-19 pandemic to ensure patients awaiting cancer treatment continued to receive this support.

The service offers evidence-based cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation, designed to improve clinical outcomes with increased survival rates and improved morbidity. It incorporates exercise, nutrition and wellbeing interventions, in order to:

  • Optimise people diagnosed with cancer prior to undertaking treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy)
  • Support enhanced recovery, including reducing the risk of complications and reducing time spent in hospital
  • Support mental wellbeing
  • Build a healthier lifestyle to live well beyond treatment

To date, approximately 2,500 cancer patients from across Greater Manchester have participated in the programme. This model is the first prehabilitation programme in the country to be delivered system-wide and at this scale. The service is planned to continue to benefit a wider patient population in the future.

The programme represents a partnership between the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, leading the development and funding of the service, and GM Active, the representative body for the local authority owned leisure and wellness facilities used to deliver the service. This network of facilities allows participation for patients close to home for normalisation, improved accessibility and long-term behavioural change. Exercise specialists delivering the programme receive cancer rehabilitation qualifications and benefit from guidance from the programme’s occupational therapy lead, focused on psychosocial, activity analysis, adaptive skills and the overall ethos of occupational therapy.

Professor Diane Cox, Chair of Council, Royal College of Occupational Therapists said:

I am incredibly proud to be an occupational therapist. And never more so than during such challenging and rapidly evolving times, where adaptability has been vital. We’re delighted that our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal has seen here today an exceptional example of how an occupational therapist-led service has adapted to continue to support patients during the pandemic, and is making such a positive difference to people.

Every day across the UK, occupational therapists change lives for the better. They are trained in both mental and physical health, and are able to assess a person and situation as a whole to find solutions to problems. And it is this that enables occupational therapists to take leadership roles in innovative and diverse settings, and to share their vision of occupational therapy and its value within their service, as has been clearly shown here today. And while the provision of personalised and occupational-focused rehabilitation has never been so important or more urgently needed – and we believe that occupational therapists are fundamental in this – prehabilitation also has an important part to play, bringing invaluable benefits, helping people to prepare for, and cope better with their treatment.”

Zoe Merchant, AHP Clinical Lead and occupational therapist by background, said:

“The Prehab4Cancer programme focuses on using participant’s engagement in positive occupations, primarily exercise, to optimise them for their cancer treatment and supports enhanced recovery following treatment with increased independence and quality of life throughout their cancer pathway.

“We’re delighted that Her Royal Highness has been able to visit and see the service first-hand today, to celebrate the knowledge and skills brought together by the range of healthcare and exercise professionals involved to deliver an impactful service to patients that enhances their overall outcomes and experiences.”

Tony Collier, a patient representative from Altrincham living with prostate cancer, who has supported the design of the service said:

I am a massive advocate of the benefits of exercise – not only physically but also the positive impact it can have on your mental health, especially when dealing with the challenges brought about by a cancer diagnosis.

“I’m thrilled to see how successful the Prehab team have been to date and hope to see this approach adopted across the country in future to support even more patients to live well during and after their treatment.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said:

“Statistics now suggest that one in two of us will develop cancer in our lifetime, especially with many of us living longer, so it’s crucial to ensure that we focus not only on catching cancer early, but also that people are supported to live well both with and beyond cancer.

“I’m proud to see the collaboration that’s happened here in Greater Manchester and that this is now a model for best practice elsewhere to support our populations to continue to live well.”

Claire O’Rourke, Managing Director of Greater Manchester Cancer said:

“It is an honour to be visited by Her Royal Highness today to recognise the work of our Prehab4Cancer team. I’d like to thank all of our partners that have been involved in delivering this flagship initiative that has made such a difference to our patients.

“Greater Manchester Cancer is committed to developing innovative programmes of work that make use of the diverse range of knowledge and skills on offer from the range of healthcare professions within our system, so that we can continue to improve services for people affected by cancer across the region.”

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