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Cardiac rehabilitation programme wins BMJ award

Posted on 8 October 2020

A home-based rehabilitation programme currently rolling out across the NHS for patients with heart failure to achieve a better quality of life has won a prestigious BMJ award.

The Rehabilitation Enablement in Chronic Heart Failure (REACH-HF) project was delivered in a research collaboration led by the University of Exeter and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust in partnership with clinical and academic teams in York, Dundee, Glasgow, Birmingham and Gwent. 

The BMJ Awards are the UK’s leading medical awards promoting excellence in healthcare and recognising the inspirational work of healthcare teams across the UK.

Chair-based exercise

Professor Patrick Doherty of the University of York’s Department of Health Sciences developed the chair-based exercise intervention and exercise prescription used in REACH-HF. The intervention creates a new tailored approach for patients with heart failure to exercise safely at home. 

Professor Doherty said: “Even before COVID-19 struck the NHS, many patients with heart failure felt isolated from the benefits of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation as they were unable to access conventional hospital-based rehabilitation. 

“REACH-HF has changed that. By using a facilitated self-managed approach, proven to enhance quality of life, REACH-HF has enabled patients to take control of their condition and to maintain their fitness levels safely and effectively at home.”

Dr Hasnain Dalal of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Exeter Medical School said: “We’re delighted to receive the 2020 BMJ Award. We would like to thank the judging panel for recognising the dedication of our hard-working REACH-HF team in developing and evaluating a novel home-based rehabilitation programme for people with heart failure and their caregivers over the last decade.”

The project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Telephone support

Through the REACH-HF programme, cardiac nurses and allied health professionals support patients, and any caregivers present, in their homes to introduce the programme and then provide telephone support. 

The intervention includes a discussion of self-care activities including symptom management, chair-based exercises, a walking plan and relaxation exercises.  Patients are given an interactive booklet designed to facilitate learning from experience by recording symptoms and self-care activities and a support manual. 

A randomised controlled trial showed that the intervention produced significant improvements in health-related quality of life. The mean cost for delivering the REACH-HF intervention was £418 per patient making it cost-effective. 

Following the success of the trial, the programme is currently being rolled out as part of routine clinical practice. Its service quality and patient outcomes are monitored and evaluated by the BHF National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation. 

Find out more about the work of the Cardiovascular Health Research Group (CHRG) led by Professor Doherty at the University of York.