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Sheffield’s “novel and innovative” cancer exercise programme praised in Parliament

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Nikki Brady


A pioneering programme that helps people in Sheffield prepare for and recover from cancer treatment by enhancing fitness and wellbeing has been praised in Parliament by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts.

Clive Betts MP standing outside the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre alongside Dr Stuart Griffiths, Professor Rob Copeland and patient Neil Garner.

The Active Together service, designed by Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, has now helped nearly 400 people since its launch in February 2022.

Yorkshire Cancer Research is funding fitness, nutrition and wellbeing programmes across the region to help drive forward worldwide understanding of exercise as a treatment for cancer.

Evidence shows that being active before, during and after treatment can not only increase treatment options, reduce side effects and complications from treatment and speed up recovery, but also increase the likelihood of survival and reduce the risk of cancer coming back.

Clive, who was himself diagnosed with a form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma in 2018, recently met the team behind the programme, including researchers, physiotherapists and fitness instructors, as well as patients who have directly benefitted from its personalised support.

Describing the service as “novel and innovative”, Clive highlighted Active Together in Parliament following his visit and invited Health Secretary Steve Barclay to come to the centre and learn how the programme might be rolled out across the country, explaining: “When I was first diagnosed, my GP gave me two pieces of advice: keep positive and keep active.”

The Secretary of State agreed that Clive had raised an “interesting and important point”, adding: “How we better equip patients pre-surgery and post-surgery, how we look at their wellbeing...and how we think about being active are all hugely important. I would be keen to learn more about the programme.”

Clive was invited to visit the programme and hear about Yorkshire Cancer Research's vision for every cancer patient to one day benefit from this service.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research at Yorkshire Cancer Research said: “Yorkshire Cancer Research will be funding more fitness and wellbeing programmes across Yorkshire, through the opening of its own centres and also by working in partnership with hospitals and in local communities."

Having the support of Yorkshire MPs is important to help us see exercise programmes like these available to every cancer patient in our region as part of standard NHS cancer care. We’re delighted that this issue is being discussed at a national level thanks to the interest of local politicians.

Director of Research at Yorkshire Cancer Research

During his visit to the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, Clive met 69-year-old Neil Garner, who was successfully treated for bowel cancer after receiving support from Active Together.

After losing weight through the programme, he was able to have keyhole surgery to remove the cancer, which resulted in safer procedure with fewer complications, a shorter stay in hospital and a quicker recovery.

Active Together patient Neil smiling at the camera while in exercise studio

Neil said: “If it wasn’t for Yorkshire Cancer Research, the exercise programme might not exist, and so the charity has helped me tremendously to have what I consider to be a positive outcome.

“I believe that exercise should be available for all cancer patients. At the same time, I think the NHS, including GPs and clinicians, should be promoting exercise to people with cancer, and that the government should help with funding. Having been through the programme, I think everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from this kind of support.”

Clive added: “We should move away from an NHS which simply focuses on medical treatment and look at the wraparound services that can enable people to respond to the treatment better, to enable them to undertake the treatment or operation in a fitter state, and then hopefully go on and live healthier lives in the future as well.”

Read more about Active Together