New 2.9 million project to develop rehabilitation programmes for people with multiple long-term conditions

Researchers at the University of Birmingham are supporting a new programme designed to provide exercise-based rehabilitation to people living with multiple long-term health conditions.

The PERFORM study (Personalised Exercise-Rehabilitation for people with Multiple long-term conditions) is led by researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Glasgow and supported by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre - a partnership between the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. It is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

There are a growing number of people living with more than one long-term health condition as care improves and life expectancy has increased. However, health care services often only address one condition at a time. People with more than one health condition often have complex needs that are not always met by this approach.

The researchers hope to produce a personalised exercise-rehabilitation programme for people living with multiple long-term health conditions that factors in these complex needs.

Professor Colin Greaves , at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences , is leading the development of the exercise-rehabilitation programme.

The work builds on expertise established at the University through the REACH-HF programme , an award-winning home-based cardiac rehabilitation programme developed to help increase participation in rehabilitation therapies for heart failure patients and carers. The aim of exercise based rehabilitation is to reduce the impact of symptoms on quality of life, rather than treat the condition itself, yet is usually disease-specific.

Professor Kate Jolly , from the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Applied Health Research , says: "We are really delighted to receive this support from the National Institute for Health Research as the research will help to determine how we can support people who are living with multiple long term conditions to have have a better quality of life".

Professor Greaves says: "We hope that this will be a game-changing development for care of older people with multiple illnesses in the NHS. We will be able to concentrate much more of the care and support they need in one place and engage the power of exercise to address multiple conditions. This project further reinforces the University of Birmingham’s growing reputation as a centre for the development of high impact real-world interventions for supporting patients to manage chronic illnesses."

Professor Sally Singh, co-lead of the project and Professor of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at the University of Leicester and Leicester Hospitals, said: "We know that people who undergo respiratory or cardiac exercise-based rehabilitation see a real improvement in their quality of life, a reduction in their symptoms and an increased ability to carry out their day-to-day tasks. However we’ve also heard from a lot of people with multiple long term conditions that current rehabilitation programmes don’t meet their needs

"This programme will take a more personalised, patient-centred and holistic approach to exercise rehabilitation. People will undergo individual assessments of their needs so we can focus on improving what matters most to them."

The research team will work with people living with multiple long term health conditions, current rehabilitation service users, and healthcare workers to design the new programme. It will then be tested in clinical trials across the UK to investigate the benefit to patients. The team are also working with experts from the Universities of Birmingham, Exeter, Salford, York and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

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