Macmillan and Onkohealth partner to offer pioneering digital prehabilitation support to cancer patients across the UK

  • Macmillan Cancer Support is partnering with digital health experts Onkohealth to offer digital prehabilitation to over a thousand cancer patients
  • The pilot scheme is being run across multiple NHS cancer treatment centres
  • The partnership will provide cancer patients with a free personalised support programme as part of their NHS care, to improve their health, quality of life and recovery while they undergo cancer treatment

A new scheme between Macmillan Cancer Support and Onkohealth will offer personalised health coaching and prehabilitation support to over a thousand cancer patients through Onko’s digital platform. The scheme will aim to help patients feel more supported as they go through treatment, improve their wellbeing and achieve better health outcomes.

This scheme is based on a successful prehabilitation programme trialled within a leading NHS trust and is designed to evaluate the scaling up of the original programme across the NHS via Onkohealth’s digital platform. Previous research has shown that patients on the original programme had a higher likelihood of completing chemotherapy as planned, lower rates of treatment-related pneumonia and a shorter average hospital stay, and it may also help maintain people’s quality of life. Initial research also suggests the digital version of the programme is associated with an increase in people’s level of physical activity and a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.

The specialised health coaching and support on the digital version of the programme will be provided by a highly experienced clinical team, helping to drive high levels of adherence and outstanding patient experience. The programme structure, goals and the need for ongoing support are tailored to each patient based on their physical, psychological and clinical profile, including the type of cancer they are living with and the treatment. 

Patients and their clinical team can track their personalised goals, symptoms and treatment side effects via the confidential and secure app. Onko’s digital model of prehabilitation offers the ability to deliver highly personalised programmes that can be adapted in response to a variety of data. Places on the scheme will be offered to patients across a number of NHS centres via their NHS clinical team. Macmillan’s role in this will be to help fund this scheme, which has also received matched funding from the NHS cancer centres, and to work with Onko, NHS partners and health economists to implement and evaluate it. The shared aim is to roll out prehabilitation programmes such as this more widely in the future.

Macmillan Cancer support, Onkohealth and the NHS organisations involved in this scheme, share the same vision and commitment to addressing health inequalities and improving access to prehabilitation. This collaboration will also provide a deeper insight on strategies to tackle digital exclusion in people affected by cancer.

Jamie Kichenbrand, Head of Innovation Commercial Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We understand the importance of giving everyone with cancer the individual care and support they need and deserve. Prehabilitation can make a huge difference to people as they prepare for and go through treatment, however unequal provision of programmes and capacity challenges across the NHS can prevent people from accessing this vital care and support.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Onkohealth so we can better understand how their digital service can be best applied to ensure everybody living with cancer has access to invaluable expertise and guidance on preparing for treatment.”

Venetia Wynter-Blyth, Consultant Nurse and co-founder of Onkohealth said “We are a team of experienced healthcare professionals and recognise the huge expertise in clinical services, but also the challenges and capacity constraints faced throughout the NHS. We are here to help services scale up their prehabilitation services and provide more patients with the support and help they need. We are proud that our digital solution has been closely developed with patients being involved at every step of the way. Digital exclusion maybe a significant challenge in the NHS but we have got some exciting ideas and plans to tackle this. As a former Macmillan nurse, I am so thrilled to be working with Macmillan to improve access to this service, which hopes to makes a real difference to patients and clinical outcomes.”

Mr Krishna Moorthy, consultant surgeon and co-founder of Onkohealth said “Prehabilitation is rapidly becoming the standard of care in cancer surgical pathways, however access to prehabilitation is still very variable and programmes may not be accessible to patients who need it the most.

“As a surgeon I have seen the benefits of prehabilitation for patients undergoing surgery, but research shows that there are benefits to all patients undergoing oncological treatments. Incredibly, this kind of technology allows clinical teams to track their patients progress remotely through the digital system. By addressing health risks before and during treatment, prehabilitation has the potential to change cancer care for the better.

“Our research has shown that people who undergo prehabilitation programmes have a higher likelihood of completing cancer treatment as planned, lower complication rates and shorter hospital stays. This next step will help us understand how to best deliver these programmes digitally so that we can reach and support more patients.” 

Ruth Dixon del Tufo, Head of Partnerships and Strategy at Onko, said “There is no denying that Covid shone a light on health inequalities and how access to the right health services can make a huge impact on patients' outcomes. As waiting lists grow, clinicians and services are struggling to meet the needs of patients and people need more support.

“Having worked for the NHS for 15 years, I can see there has been a huge shift towards digital innovation and automation during the pandemic. We know that we need to tackle health inequalities by broadening access to prehabilitation services for all patients undergoing treatment for cancer, however scaling these services has been challenging. This kind of intelligent and innovative technology will hopefully enable us to provide prehab at a much larger scale, at lower costs and with comparable or better outcomes than face to face services.”

Notes to Editors
About Onkohealth

Onko is a private, non-NHS owned, health-tech business that supports people with cancer before, during and after treatment by providing customised digital programmes for pre and post cancer treatment.

About Macmillan Cancer Support

At Macmillan, we give people with cancer everything we’ve got. If you’re diagnosed, your worries are our worries. We will move mountains to help you live life as fully as you can.
Macmillan support:
Call 0808 808 00 00 or