The country has been thrown into a very different position this year; one that no one could have possibly predicted or planned for. So many vital services that we normally take for granted, have had to adapt really quickly to the sudden Covid-19 pandemic and the world of cancer was no exception.
The normal day-to-day cancer services that were providing patients with a lifeline of support, had to stop and so did all the trials.
WesFit was one such trial which had to be paused, to protect the vulnerable people that were taking part.
The irony is, their very vulnerability that the trial was working to support, suddenly was at risk of becoming even worse, with the government guidance to shield for so many cancer patients and self-isolate for thousands more. The virus sweeping the nation, was (and still is) a major health risk for anyone with existing health conditions including those who may be receiving immune-suppressing treatment – like chemotherapy, for example.
WesFit had been running for 2 years 3 months when it had to take the unplanned pause. It was an innovative research study looking to provide recently diagnosed cancer patients with a structured exercise programme, psychological and behavioural change support prior to surgery. The purpose was to demonstrate that exercise training and behaviour change support prior to surgery could improve overall survival, reduce length of stay and complications.
Participants were all cancer patients who were due to undergo surgery. 181 patients had been recruited and the plan had been to share the learning and expand the service to more hospital sites across Wessex and other Cancer Alliances. The trial had partnered with charities and community exercise facilities to ensure the support offered, was both local and accessible to all patients.
The trial was proving to be so successful; it had received regional media coverage as well as a HSJ nomination for innovation. So, when the organisations involved were told it had to pause, there was a real sense of disappointment and concern, both for the trial and for the people that it had been supporting.