Patients who attended 'surgery school' plan to adopt a healthier lifestyle

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A pioneering ‘surgery school’ initiative developed by Southampton doctors has been shown to motivate patients to adopt healthier habits – helping them to take control and get into the best possible shape for their operations.

Critical care researchers at UHS have shown 60% of the patients who attended their Fit-4-Surgery school and gave feedback planned to make lifestyle changes that would improve their health.

The study results, published in the journal Anaesthesia, also found that 94% of these patients would recommend it to a friend having surgery.

Exercise as medicine

The Fit-4-Surgery school is one of a number of pioneering studies showing that ‘prehabilitation’ – getting into the best possible shape before and during major surgery and treatment – has significant benefits for patients’ wellbeing, quality of life and readiness for major surgery.

Overall, 586/1017 (58%) of patients invited between May 2016 and December 2018 decided to attend, and 492 completed the anonymous feedback form at the end. They were all scheduled to have surgery, mostly colorectal and urological surgery.

During the two hour session, given by nurses, dieticians and physiotherapists, the patients learned what to expect after surgery, and how – by improving their nutrition, boosting their fitness and giving up smoking and alcohol prior to their operation – they could enhance their recovery.   

Changing behaviour

Of those who gave feedback after the session, most said they found it useful, and over half (60%) said they planned to make changes to their lifestyle to improve their health.    

Of the 232 patients who gave feedback after their operation, 46% said they had become more active, 41% had changed their diet, 61% had cut down on alcohol, and a few smokers had given it up.

“Over the last 5 years the feedback we have had from patients has been phenomenal, they get so much out of it. Now being able to evidence that many who attend make healthy lifestyles changes that may improve their recovery is brilliant," said Imogen Fecher-Jones, lead nurse for the perioperative medicine service.

“As a result of COVID, we are now delivering surgery school in a virtual classroom online, something we had not considered before but has been very positively received by patients and has seen attendance rates increase.”

Posted on Friday 12 February 2021