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Hospitals get active to improve patient recovery

This article is more than three years old.
OUH Chief Executive Dr Bruno Holthof visiting the 'Active Ward' within the Complex Medicine Unit

Public health experts say that if exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented. So, OUH has piloted the use of exercise as part of the treatment to help patients recover sooner and better.

The Trust, in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) and Sport England, has been running a pioneering programme called 'Active Hospitals' which aims to explore integrating physical activity interventions in a secondary care setting. A case study about the successful results of the pilot has been published by PHE.

The programme has been piloted in different departments across the Trust. Each department became a separate 'pathway'. These included Prosthetics in the Oxford Centre for Enablement, Renal Transplant in the Churchill Hospital, and the Complex Medicine Unit, Cardiology (TAVI team) and Maternity at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

In each pathway, a clinical champion was employed to lead the Active Hospitals pilot within each department and they were responsible for developing the interventions, as well as providing leadership and training to other staff within that clinical setting.

Staff working within these pathways have been trained in the benefits of physical activity and motivational interviewing. The teams have developed exercise classes, patient information leaflets, as well as bed-, chair-based, and standing-exercise programmes suitable for inpatient use which can be adapted to patients' ability.

A physical activity calculator has been added into the electronic patient record to assess patients' physical activity levels. An interactive map on ZeeMaps has been created and a community navigator is on board for patients and clinicians to identify all the possible support available in the patients' community to facilitate physical activity and link to suitable community classes and activities.

Dr Christopher Speers, Consultant in Sport & Exercise Medicine at Oxford University Hospitals said: "Hospitals, historically, have been dominated by a culture of rest. However, promoting rest leads to increased risk and adverse outcomes. Integrating physical activity into secondary care systems could be a game changer.

"There's strong scientific evidence that being physically active helps recovery: physical activity can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy which are key factors to overcome illness.

"The results from our evaluations are very promising. Even small increases in physical activity levels can make a huge difference to patients with long-term health conditions. The pilot has already helped many patients to increase their physical activity levels."

After the successful pilot, Dr Speers and his team are hoping to help other departments across the Trust to further integrate physical activity within their services and link with existing services, such as Here for Health.

They have also collected all the findings, learning and experience gained from the pilot in an 'Active Hospital Toolkit' which will be formally launched in April 2020. It is hoped it will be used by other trusts across the UK to embed physical activity within patients' treatment.

Pictured: OUH Chief Executive Dr Bruno Holthof visiting the 'Active Ward' within the Complex Medicine Unit.