UK (Sheffield Hallam University) Supporting cancer patients in Sheffield

Elaine from Sheffield, took part in the Active Together programme during her cancer treatment

Active Together participant Elaine at home with her husband John.


Active Together is a pioneering programme designed to support people in Sheffield with cancer prepare for and recover from treatment. The service gives patients tailored guidance on exercise, nutrition, and psychological support before, during and after their treatment. This ensures people are as fit and healthy as possible before treatment, meaning they may have more treatment options available to them, have a shorter stay in hospital and fewer side effects and complications from treatment. It also supports people to recover from their treatments more effectively, helping to reduce the risk of cancer coming back in the future.

Active Together was designed by researchers from Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and is delivered in partnership with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, with funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research. In its first year the programme has supported over 300 patients in Sheffield, who have been referred to the service by their Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Elaine’s Active Together story

Elaine, 79, from Intake in Sheffield has been supported by the Active Together programme after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Elaine explained how she discovered she had cancer: “We were on holiday when I went to the toilet and just saw a little bit of blood and I thought I’ve got a haemorrhoid, so I waited a week nothing happened, and then I saw another little bit.”

Elaine’s husband, John, encouraged her to request a bowel check and she explained that within a week she had an appointment for a colonoscopy.

“Then they told me then and there that I had cancer. It was just a hell of a shock to me because I’d really thought I just had a haemorrhoid. You know it was just a shock, I’d found it by accident really.”

Elaine was scheduled to have surgery and was referred to Active Together to help her prepare.

Elaine’s first appointment with the Active Together team included some simple tests to establish her physical strength. Following her assessment, Elaine was offered one-to-one appointments with a physiotherapist. She explained: “There’s always been somebody with me and they’ve always been attentive towards me and to be honest they got me through the operation because they really improved my movement.”

Each patient has the opportunity to work with staff and design a plan for their care including exercises to do at home. The plan is designed to help patients recover from their treatment sooner and build up strength afterwards.

“The surgeon warned me before I went in that I would be in intensive care for at least a week after my operation and I wasn’t, I was in overnight and that was it. He couldn’t believe it, the surgeon was really impressed.”

Elaine’s plan was specifically designed to improve the mobility in her legs and included cardiovascular and pelvic floor exercises. She explained how her husband has been getting involved too: “He used to nag me everyday to do the exercises and joined in when he could. I’ve never missed a day. I thought they would be easy but I was really feeling it the next day.”

The Active Together service also offers dietary support and help with psychological wellbeing.

Elaine explained: “I’ve lost four stone over the last year and that has reversed my diabetes, so I’m no longer diabetic. I saw a dietitian during my last visit to Active Together and she gave me a few hints and advice about my diet. The service has been helpful the whole way through my treatment.”

Elaine has now finished her cancer treatment but has continued to receive support from the Active Together team to support her recovery. When asked what she would say to other people offered the chance to join Active Together, she said: “Absolutely 100% do it”.