Background: Prehabilitation is the practice of enhancing a patient’s functional and psychological capacity before treatment commences. It is of interest in the cancer context because of the impact of treatments on quality of life and cancer survivorship. This work aims to document current practice, barriers and challenges to implementing prehabilitation to inform the development of a national framework.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was applied: an on-line survey was sent to stakeholders in cancer care across Scotland, supplemented by in-depth interviews. Key domains explored were the perceived importance of prehabilitation, availability, delivery and content of services, outcome measures, referral processes and funding.

Findings: A total of 295 survey responses were obtained and 11 interviews completed. Perceived importance of prehabilitation was rated highly. There was uncertainty over the definition of prehabilitation and most respondents did not know if local services were available. Where services were described, a range of health professionals were involved, different outcome measures were utilised and frequency of referrals varied. Respondents highlighted short time frames between referral and treatment, concerns about patient engagement, the evidence base for action and funding priorities. Respondents also commented on which context a referral should be made and to whom, and the need for equity of service across the country.

Conclusions: The current work found clear evidence of the perceived importance of prehabilitation in cancer patients. However, issues and key gaps were identified within current services (including issues arising from COVID-19) which must be addressed to enable wide-spread development and implementation of equitable programmes.


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Cite as

Provan, D., McLean, G., Moug, S., Phillips, I. & Anderson, A. 2021, 'Prehabilitation services for people diagnosed with cancer in Scotland: current practice, barriers and challenges to implementation', Surgeon, 20(5), pp. 284-290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surge.2021.08.005

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Last updated: 27 October 2022
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