The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Patient stories

A team of volunteers at the Trust are supporting patients on a surgical waiting list to get in the best shape possible for surgery, as part of the Shape Up 4 Surgery programme.

Julie, volunteer in green t-shirt speaking to a patient on the telephoneTen volunteers started calling patients on waiting lists for colorectal and urology treatments several months ago and have spoken to more than 260 patients to date, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.

On the calls they are checking in with people, offering practical advice and guidance and signposting relevant support services, such as stop smoking services. A big focus is on breathing exercises, as a study has shown that practicing breathing exercises each day leading up to surgery can help prepare the lungs for an operation, reducing the chance of getting a chest infection and associated stays in hospital.

Getting in shape before surgery is important, as it will positively impact on how well surgery goes and recovery afterwards.

Healthy Lifestyle

When a patient had their surgery postponed twice due to concerns about weight and their smoking intake, this was flagged up as someone who might benefit from additional care and knowledge through the Shape Up 4 Surgery programme.

The programme provides support through up to six telephone conversations with patients, signposting help and providing encouragement. During the first call, the patient was referred to a stop smoking service, as well as promoting small changes in everyday life to increase exercise.

When volunteers spoke for the second time, the patient had joined the stop smoking group session and was making some effort to increase daily exercises. Volunteers were able to celebrate the commitment and offer additional encouragement to help increase exercise and activity levels.

On a follow up call, the patient reported good progress with their nicotine patches and additional lifestyle changes, including increasing an intake of fruits and vegetables and fewer sugary snacks. The team now feel the patient is in a much better position to recover well from have surgery.

Increased Mobility

One patient was worrying about how he would recover from his surgery due to his rapidly deteriorating mobility since the COVID 19 pandemic. He expressed how much he enjoyed walking with friends and doing social activities before the pandemic, however reduced mobility had left him feeling isolated.

Volunteers suggested trying to be more active in a safe environment at home and signposted him to small exercises he could do, such as walking up and down his stairs and around his garden.

A free telephone befriending service was also suggested to the patient. The next time they spoke the patients was very enthusiastic to share how he was now able to walk around his garden without the use of his Zimmer frame and he felt less breathless when walking up the stairs. He was feeling confident about continuing increasing his exercise levels to be able to  join his friends in a weekly social activity a short walk away from his house. In each follow up call the patient and volunteer celebrated how much his mobility has improved, which is allowing him too slowly immerse himself back into activities with his friendship groups.   

Patients with a healthier lifestyle recover more quickly from surgery with fewer post-operative complications.

Healthy Eating

Volunteers for Shape Up 4 Surgery spoken to a patient who did not feel the programme would be suitable for her, with a busy personal life balancing two young children and work.

The programme provides support through up to six telephone conversations with patients, tailoring these to convenient times for each person. Healthy eating was flagged as a challenge and talking this through with, in addition to flagging short videos from nutritionists and small changes that could be made, have encouraged the patient to commit to eating more healthily and planning better for meals.

Patients with a healthier lifestyle recover more quickly from surgery with fewer post-operative complications.