Piloting digital prehabilitation with cancer patients in Suffolk

Health Innovation East brokers pilot of digital prehabilitation and health coaching from Onkohealth at Ipswich hospital in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support

Published: 20th July 2022

Providing cancer patients with a free personalised support programme

Macmillan Cancer Support and Onkohealth have partnered to offer pioneering digital prehabilitation support to cancer patients at Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals (East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust).

The programme aims to help patients feel more supported as they go through treatment, improve their wellbeing and achieve better health outcomes. The pilot is expected to last for around nine months and will support 400 patients.

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What is prehab?

Prehabilitation is the practice of working with patients and the people close to them, before treatment starts to prepare for, manage and reduce the impact of cancer and its treatments, to improve outcomes and quality of life. It covers issues like nutrition, physical activity or exercise, symptom control and mental wellbeing.

Onkohealth’s platform combines intelligent technology with an interdisciplinary clinical support team to deliver risk-stratified, clinically proven programmes of prehabilitation and support for patients based on the PREPARE programme from Imperial College London (ICL). It integrates with the existing care pathway and with a view to driving better clinical outcomes, speeding up recovery and enabling operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Previous research has shown that patients on the ICL programme had a higher likelihood of completing chemotherapy as planned1, lower rates of treatment-related pneumonia and a shorter average hospital stay2,3, and it may also help maintain people’s quality of life4. Initial research also suggests the digital version of the programme is associated with an increase in people’s level of physical activity and a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression5.

After presenting their solution to Health Innovation East’s Innovation Review Panel in June 2021, Onkohealth were introduced to partners at Macmillan Cancer Support with a view to running a pilot in our region.

This led to interest from Suffolk and North East Essex (SNEE) Integrated Care System and following introductions Health Innovation East brokered the pilot, which went live in March 2022.

The specialised health coaching and support on the digital version of the programme is provided by a highly experienced clinical team. The programme structure, goals and the need for ongoing support are tailored to each patient based on their physical, psychological and clinical profile, including the type of cancer they are living with and the treatment.

It is hoped that this collaboration will also provide a deeper insight on strategies to tackle digital exclusion in people affected by cancer whilst reducing the need for vulnerable patients to travel into hospital settings.

Dr Christopher Scrase, Macmillan Clinical Lead for Cancer at SNEE, said:

“We know how important a patient’s health going into cancer treatment is for determining their outcomes so have been keen to pilot a prehabilitation programme. We’re excited to see how the programme and the digital platform it is built on can empower patients to manage their health and ultimately we hope it leads to better cancer outcomes”

Venetia Wynter-Blyth, Consultant Nurse and co-founder of Onkohealth said:

“We are a team of experienced healthcare professionals and recognise the huge expertise in clinical services, but also the challenges and capacity constraints faced throughout the NHS. We know that we need to tackle health inequalities by broadening access to prehabilitation services for all patients undergoing treatment for cancer, however scaling these services has been challenging.

“We have been delighted to work alongside colleagues in the Health Innovation East, SNEE ICS and ESNEFT Trust to improve access to this service, which makes a real difference to patients and clinical outcomes.”

Jamie Kichenbrand, Head of Innovation Commercial Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support said:

“We understand the importance of giving everyone with cancer the individual care and support they need and deserve. Prehabilitation can make a huge difference to people as they prepare for and go through treatment, however unequal provision of programmes and capacity challenges across the NHS can prevent people from accessing this vital care and support. We are delighted to be partnering with Onkohealth and cancer professionals in the SNEE region to help ensure everybody living with cancer has access to invaluable expertise and guidance on preparing for treatment.”

Find out more about Onkohealth by visiting their website or contacting kieran.cornwell@healthinnovationeast.co.uk.


  1. The impact of personalized prehabilitation on tolerance to chemotherapy in patients with gastric and oesophageal cancer. Grigorios Christodoulis, Halliday L, Bhuva N, Wynter-Blyth V, Moorthy K. A controlled study. Ann Oncol; 32 (S5): S11056
  2. Adherence to Pre-operative Exercise and the Response to Prehabilitation in Oesophageal Cancer Patients. Halliday LJ, Doganay E, Wynter-Blyth V, Osborn H, Buckley J, Moorthy K. J Gastrointest Surg. 2021;25(4):890-899
  3. The Impact of Prehabilitation on Post-operative Outcomes in Oesophageal Cancer Surgery: a Propensity Score Matched Comparison. Halliday LJ, Doganay E, Wynter-Blyth VA, Hanna GB, Moorthy K. Article. J Gastrointest Surg. 2021;25(11):2733-2741.
  4. Prehabilitation reduces the extent of functional deterioration associated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) and surgery in patients with oesophago-gastric cancer. Venetia Wynter-Blyth, Laura Halliday, Hayley Osborn, Krishna Moorthy, Clin Nutr, ESPN. 2017.19: 86
  5. Feasibility of implementing a Digital Prehabilitation Service for cancer patients in the NHS. Zaninotto F, Wynter-Blyth V, Moorthy K. Ann Oncol; 32 (S5): S1179

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