HCT's innovative STABLE programme

Posted: October 11 2018

HCT's innovative STABLE programme

An exercise programme for people with Parkinson's disease, developed by HCT clinicians, is making a difference to patients across the county.

STABLE (Staying Active with Big Limb Exercises) is the brainchild of Wendy Forsyth, Physiotherapist and Gillian Murphy, Occupational Therapist.

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological condition with the main symptoms being a tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement. The STABLE programme is centred towards improving everyday tasks such as getting dressed, getting out of bed, walking, maintaining balance, writing, cooking or shopping. The tasks in each exercise sessions are chosen by group members in areas they wish to address. 

Over the past four years STABLE has helped more than 50 people across the county living with Parkinson's disease to maintain their independence and increase their quality of life. It has been recognised as providing such positive results that local services are looking to expand the programme more widely, ultimately aiming to offer it across all localities.

Wendy said: "The Parkinson's STABLE programme is an eight-week functional group exercise session. It runs at Danesbury Neurological Centre in Welwyn for people who are newly diagnosed or who have mild symptoms. Each group has a maximum of eight people to allow plenty of attention from the therapists."

Gillian said: "It is very common for people with Parkinson's disease to become socially isolated as their condition deteriorates. Going out in public can become a big thing, and when your confidence drops because you have lost certain abilities it is easy to shut yourself away. The group provides social support and interaction with others in similar situations which participants have found extremely helpful.

"There is research to show we can influence the chemicals in our brain to help delay the progression of the condition. This is by using high intensity exercises which encourages people to move with more physical effort, using bigger movements.

"People with Parkinson's have difficulty sensing the amount of effort needed to move normally; by using the high intensity exercises and mindfulness of movement we aim to address these problems. We encourage everyone to take the exercises away with them into their routines each day.

"This programme is very cost effective to the NHS helping to reduce the demand on services. It also reduces the demand on social care needs and on carers as people are able to manage their condition and remain more independent."

Help is being offered by the University of Hertfordshire's Research Design Service to support writing of a research grant application and analysing data, funded by the National Institute for Health Research. The Friends of Danesbury, a charity group in Welwyn, has also provided support with funding.

A paper will shortly be published outlining the positive effects of STABLE. In addition, a manual to help train other therapists to deliver the programme is being drawn up and an increasing number of local therapists are now trained to deliver the programme.

Peter's story

Peter Dixon, 59, of Stevenage, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2014. He now runs his own community exercise class following his time on the eight-week Parkinson's STABLE programme. Peter said: "I cannot thank Gillian and Wendy enough. Their programme gave me my confidence back, my social life and my independence. I cannot be cured but I am able to manage day-to-day activities better."

If you are a journalist or media representative requiring further information contact our communications team on (01707) 388148 or via communications@hct.nhs.uk