Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

Online group cancer support: meeting the needs of people living with cancer in a post Covid world

Post by Rachel Johnson, Evaluation Lead at Penny Brohn UK

Supporting people with cancer through an integrated whole person approach

A whole person approach to cancer care is at the heart of everything we do. We recognise that all parts of ourselves – mind, body, spirit and emotions – work together to support our immune system and keep us well. Our services enable people to build resilience into every aspect of their life, helping them to stay well with, and beyond cancer.

Moving to online support

In response to Covid-19 in March 2020, Penny Brohn UK moved cancer support online. Within weeks, a programme of regular online group sessions was available. Sessions included:

  • The Resilience Room (led by an Integrative Doctor alongside guest experts in cancer care and support)
  • Nutrition Know How (led by Nutritional Therapists)
  • Relaxation Room (relaxation techniques, mindfulness and meditation)
  • Bodyworks project (group exercise sessions)
  • Self-care Toolbox (exploring different self-care tools and techniques)


In November 2020, the in-house Research & Evaluation Team looked at people’s experiences of online group support. This evaluation included looking at the impact this support had on people’s health and wellbeing.

In February 2021, a survey went out to over 1000 people who had attended at least one online group session. We received over 300 responses. We’re grateful to everyone who took time to tell us about their experiences. The sections below describe some of the key findings.

Experience and impact

  • The sessions rated highest were: Resilience Room, Self-care Toolbox and Exploring Healing,
  • Over 80% of respondents saying they found these sessions ‘helpful’ or ‘extremely helpful’
  • 76% said the sessions had improved their overall wellbeing
  • 58% said the sessions had improved their lifestyle
  • 52% said they were more resilient as a result of the sessions
  • 51% said the sessions had improved their use of self-help techniques
  • 86% said online sessions had helped them manage their health and wellbeing more effectively.


We also wanted to understand what negatively affected peoples’ experience of using online services. Importantly, through listening to and responding to this feedback, we can improve our services.

  • 17% of respondents said they had experienced something difficult or challenging while attending an online group session.
    • 32% of these said they had experienced issues with other attendees (e.g. dominating the session)
    • 13% mentioned challenges around Breakout Rooms (e.g. feeling unprepared)
    • 13% mentioned difficulties related to the chat function on Zoom (e.g. finding it distracting).

Future intentions

  • 65% said they would like to attend face-to-face Penny Brohn UK services in the future
  • The majority (52%) said they would attend about the same amount of online sessions once Covid-19 restrictions were lifted
  • Respondents said they’d like Penny Brohn UK to provide more sessions around:
    • Complementary therapies (21%)
    • Creative activities (21%)
    • Cancer site/stage specific services (11%)
    • Opportunities to connect with peers (7%).

This important information enabled the services team at Penny Brohn UK to make changes to sessions to improve user experience. Some services have stopped. Some services have improved. And, extra services have been added to the programme as a direct result of the feedback received.

Service users will see how their feedback is shaping Penny Brohn UK’s services offering for 2022.

This evaluation had an immediate and positive impact on the online group services we offer at Penny Brohn UK. We will continue to talk to our clients in 2022 to make sure our services continue to meet their needs.


For more information about this evaluation please contact:

Sarah Churchward and Rachel Johnson – Evaluation Leads at Penny Brohn UK

You can explore online group sessions here.

Infographic showing research


Infographic showing research

Infographic showing researchInfographic showing research

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