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The University of Southampton

A team of Medicine researchers develop innovative 'surgery school' to get patients fit

Published: 14 October 2016
Improving health and fitness
Improving health and fitness

Doctors and nurses at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are taking patients and their families out of the consulting room and into the classroom in a bid to get them fit before surgery.

Professor Mike Grocott, Professor of Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine within Medicine at the University of Southampton, and consultant in critical care at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) NHS Foundation Trust, and his team have launched a weekly ‘surgery school’ designed to prepare patients mentally and physically for their operation.

Currently being piloted among colorectal and urology patients at Southampton General Hospital, the innovation sees groups of ten patients attend a two-hour session with their clinical team to find out more about improving health and fitness.

Topics covered include the benefits of exercise, nutrition, alcohol education and smoking cessation – all with the aim of reducing patients’ risk of complications post-surgery and the length of time they spend in hospital.

As part of the project, patients are given advice on what types of exercise to undertake and have access to the specialist Southampton Quitters service, as well as a dedicated alcohol support team.

“We know from various UK and international research studies that patients who are in good physical shape prior to surgery have fewer complications and enjoy a quicker recovery after their operation,” explained Mike.

“But just handing patients a leaflet or making a passing comment about trying to take care of their health – which remains commonplace – just isn’t enough to get the message through about what a difference improvements in fitness and lifestyle can make.

“Therefore, we have been piloting the surgery school as a formal part of patients’ pre-surgery preparations – and are also following up to see how many patients have sustained changes in their routines to maintain improvements made prior to their operations.”

Around 90 patients have attended the surgery school so far, with 93% likely to recommend the programme to a friend or family member ahead of major surgery.

Imogen Fecher-Jones, an advanced nurse practitioner and perioperative medicine project manager at UHS, added: “Feedback from patients has been extremely positive so far and many are reporting a continuation of better diets and lifestyles long after their surgery, so we are seeing a much wider impact than just a method of reducing complications and improving recovery in the short-term.”

The surgery school is one of a number of innovations being highlighted as part of Fab Change Day, a national event taking place on Wednesday (19 October) which gives NHS staff across the country the chance to discuss ideas they believe will help improve services for patients, families and colleagues.

At UHS, staff will also get to hear about projects such as a clothing bank set-up by a therapy assistant after she saw an elderly patient about to be discharged in a hospital gown.

There will also be opportunities for staff to talk about potential innovations with a team of conceptualists in a special ‘make the change’ pod, place suggestions on a wishing tree and present ideas to chief executive Fiona Dalton at a ‘listening lunch’.

Dr Kate Pryde, a consultant paediatrician at Southampton Children’s Hospital and a Fab Change Day event co-ordinator at UHS, said: “This day is all about giving staff the platform to discuss their ideas and empowering them to ‘make the change’ no matter how big or small their ideas are.”

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