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Pulmonary rehab clinic underway this summer at Oxford Brookes

A partnership between two leading education and health organisations has led to face-to-face rehabilitation work returning for the first time in many months.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Brookes University have been running pulmonary rehabilitation clinics which have been supporting vulnerable patients at the university’s Marston Road site in Headington. The clinics enable local people with respiratory diseases to receive a six-week rehabilitation programme.

The clinics also give Oxford Brookes students, who are supervised by physiotherapy clinical experts from Oxford Health, the chance to work both 1 to 1 with patients and run group sessions on exercise, lifestyle and wellbeing. Physio students from Brunel University are also taking part.

Developing the initiative

The ‘summer camp’ pulmonary rehabilitation initiative was devised by Sara Bolton, a senior physiotherapist and Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Leader at Oxford Health, and is being supported by Respiratory Physiotherapist Chris Swindale. Ordinarily the pulmonary rehabilitation session would have been held at gyms and leisure centres, but pandemic restrictions meant this was not possible until an opportunity came up thanks to the university.

“The reasons behind our involvement are twofold”, explains Senior Physiotherapy Lecturer Katy Baines. “We wanted to find placement opportunities this summer for our students and this year we have the premises available. We also know from our clinical partners that there are long waiting lists for pulmonary rehab clinics and we very much wanted to assist with this.”

Chris Swindale from Oxford Health said: “We continued to work hard through the pandemic and lockdowns to help and support our patients and switching to online sessions was a success.

“But we were still really keen to get back to seeing people face-to-face and the partnership with Brookes has been great for everyone. As well as being able to do some in-person work with patients it’s also really good to work with the respiratory physiotherapist students and help them on their journey to a career in healthcare.”

Building patients’ strength and confidence

So how does it work? The clinics run four days a week with each patient working with one student physio. Around 60 patients are taking part. The exercise sessions are devised for each person to build their strength and improve their breathing capacity.

Students also deliver some group sessions on areas like nutrition, stopping smoking, use of inhalers, and how to pace themselves day to day. Some sessions are also taking place online.

“It’s a real confidence booster for patients who may be worried about the effect on their breathing of increasing activity”, explains Katy. “They get an individually tailored programme of exercise that gradually builds their activity levels – and they enjoy the social aspects of attending alongside other people with similar challenges.”

Benefits for students

Students are enthusiastic too. As first-year master’s student Louise puts it: “Being involved in the pulmonary rehab summer camp has been such a great opportunity to experience leading both virtual and in-person pulmonary rehab sessions. I’ve had the chance to work with people on an individual basis as well as running group classes and have really enjoyed the placement so far – it’s been fantastic to see the progress that people are making!”

Another student, Bradley adds: “It’s been a great experience working with lots of other students, with all backgrounds and experiences in physiotherapy. It has allowed for patients, who would have most likely been on waiting lists for long durations, to have the treatment and education that they really need to help with their conditions.”

For Katy Baines there have been added benefits too.  “It’s been so valuable working in collaboration with the Oxford Health Community Team and Brunel University, and it’s opened up some exciting research opportunities within physiotherapy. And of course the best thing is the support we can provide to patients on the waiting list so they can get on with their lives.”

The programme has continued at Oxford Brookes throughout August. Find out more about physiotherapy at Oxford Brookes.