Research 09.05.24

£4m funding boost to expand pioneering cancer support service across South Yorkshire

A pioneering exercise, nutrition and wellbeing cancer support service that has helped more than 1,000 people in Sheffield prepare for and recover from cancer treatment has received a £4 million funding boost to expand across South Yorkshire.

The service, known as Active Together, is designed and delivered by experts at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) based at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The service offers free, personalised fitness, nutrition, and wellbeing support to help people with cancer prepare for, respond to, and recover after treatment. It aims to save lives by increasing cancer treatment options, reducing side-effects, speeding up recovery and improving long-term health outcomes.

Since its launch in Sheffield in 2022, more than 1,000 patients have used the service and in late 2023 Yorkshire Cancer Research began providing the service from its centre in Hornbeam Park.

It is now being rolled out in Barnsley, Rotherham, and Doncaster thanks to an additional £4m funding from the charity,

The rollout will be delivered in partnership with Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

Active Together
One of those who have used the Sheffield service is Neil Garner, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2022. He was referred to the Active Together programme which provided him with specialist fitness, nutrition, and wellbeing support.

Neil said: “I felt upset when I was told I had cancer, but I also felt that I needed to be strong for my family. When my surgeon asked me about my weight, it just confirmed to me what I’d need to do.

“Fortunately, my fitness was okay, but I was overweight. So, they created a personalised training programme for me to lose weight and to bring my fitness stamina up to an even better level than it was.”

In the space of eight weeks, Neil managed to lose two stone and significantly improve his fitness which meant he could safely have his cancer removed.

Professor Robert Copeland, Director of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “We know that prehabilitation and rehabilitation initiatives focused on physical activity, nutrition and psychological support can have significant benefits for people with a cancer diagnosis.

The Active Together programme was designed around these principles, and since its launch, the service has supported over 1,000 people to prepare for – and recover from – cancer treatment.

“It is fantastic that we are now able to expand the programme from its home at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre to seven additional sites across South and West Yorkshire.

“This will ensure thousands more patients are supported to independently manage their health and wellbeing throughout their treatment journey. The ultimate aim is to help improve patients’ long-term health outcomes and ultimately save lives across the region.”

Tailored support
Yorkshire Cancer Research plans to take the Active Together service to people across Yorkshire, creating the largest global study of this kind.

As well as giving people in Yorkshire the opportunity to benefit from the latest thinking in cancer treatment, the charity aims to demonstrate the lifesaving impact of tailored exercise programmes to the worldwide cancer research community and those who deliver treatment.

The charity hopes the National Health Service (NHS) will replicate the service across the country so that everyone who receives a cancer diagnosis can benefit from tailored exercise, nutrition, and mental health support.

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research said: “Evidence that exercise is a fantastic additional treatment for cancer patients is compelling. So why wait when we can start providing this for people in Yorkshire whilst contributing to the knowledge and data being gathered elsewhere in the world?”

“Every 17 minutes, someone in Yorkshire is told they have cancer. We believe it is vital that treatment such as this is available to everyone with cancer in this region, and we hope that one day this will be possible as part of standard NHS cancer care.

“But in the meantime, this charity is not going to wait while thousands of cancer patients are missing out on a treatment that could have a significant impact on their recovery.”

The Yorkshire Cancer Research Centre has welcomed 39 people to the service since the end of 2023.

In Summer 2024, Active Together will open to people with cancer at community leisure centres in Wakefield, Pontefract, and Huddersfield. The service is being provided in partnership with Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust, Wakefield Council Aspire Health and Kirklees Active Leisure.