New research to help prevent older patients losing strength and function while in hospital

Research to find ways to improve frail older patients’ strength after a period in hospital will be carried out at the University of Cambridge by Addenbrooke’s Hospital physiotherapist, Peter Hartley, pictured.

After a period of hospitalisation, older people face substantial risks of leaving with new disabilities and dependencies that developed during their stay in hospital. Peter Hartley, Physiotherapy Team Lead in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, will carry out a three year programme of research with older patients at Addenbrookes Hospital, thanks to his success in winning the highly competitive Dunhill Medical Trust Research Training Fellowship award.

The award will enable him to begin a PhD at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge in October 2017. The research will focus on changes in muscle strength for frail older patients during their time in hospital and associated changes in patients’ mobility. Those most at risk of loss of muscle strength will be identified and an exercise intervention aimed at preventing loss of strength will be tested.

Professor Christi Deaton, Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research, said: “Peter’s work has important implications for the care of hospitalised older patients.  Preventing loss of muscle strength and functional decline could make a difference between a patient returning to independent living at discharge or needing greater support or even residential care. The Department of Medicine for the Elderly (DME) has goals of improving care and preventing harm to this vulnerable population, and Peter’s research will help to take this forward.  We are very grateful to the support from DME and the Cambridge BRC/ACT internal research fellowship programme for supporting Peter in developing this competitive application.”

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