Hospital trust develops pioneering rehab programme for bone marrow patients

Rehab programmePhysiotherapists in Southampton have developed a pioneering rehab programme to reduce the length of time bone marrow transplant patients need to stay in hospital by up to six days.

During a six-month pilot study, the team at Southampton General Hospital recruited a therapy assistant to help patients exercise on a daily basis.

A bone marrow transplant replaces damaged bone marrow, which stops the production of healthy blood cells and can lead to immune disorders or some forms of cancer, with healthy bone marrow stem cells.

Patients usually spend between four to six weeks in isolation in hospital before continuing their rehabilitation at home.

Before the launch of the project, each patient was seen only once a week by a physiotherapist and provided with a sheet of exercises and access to a static bike.

“After conducting a review of how we could improve our services, it became clear many stem cell and bone marrow patients struggled with motivation to exercise and, as a result, were becoming very physically de-conditioned,” explained Val Young, lead oncology physiotherapist.

“One of the main findings was that having someone to work with would encourage patients to exercise more, so we decided to recruit someone dedicated to maintaining daily exercise for this patient group.”

In January, the team seconded therapy assistant Dale Chaulk who, under the supervision of physiotherapists Chris Ireland and Carole Davison, saw all newly-admitted patients having stem cell or bone marrow transplants.

He helped them to exercise by using step blocks and static bikes on a daily basis up to their discharge.

Results showed that, on average, patients experienced a six-day reduction in their length of stay and feedback from questionnaires indicated it improved patients’ motivation to exercise.

Ms Young added: “These patients are now significantly more motivated to maintain fitness levels while in isolation and, as a result, they have better functionality and body conditioning at discharge.

“Due to its success, we have now obtained funding to extend Dale’s role until March with a view to making the post permanent.”

The study has been published online by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy ( and will appear in its publication Frontline later this month.

Posted on Friday 3 October 2014