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

Researchers at the University of Leicester are developing a new programme 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 funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). The project is led by researchers in Leicester and 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. 

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. 

Exercise based rehabilitation is currently used to support patients with a range of conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure and chronic renal disease. 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 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.

Professor Rod Taylor, co-lead and Professor of Population Health Research, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit & Robertson Centre for Biostatistics, University of Glasgow said: “The traditional approach of rehabilitation which focuses on single diseases, limits what we can offer to the wider population of people with multiple long-term conditions who could benefit from these services. This NIHR Programme Grant represents an exciting opportunity for us to address this important issue.”