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Lights, camera, action… screen debut for Northumbria’s Tanzania health link

Monday, 03 October, 2016
Lights, camera, action… screen debut for Northumbria’s Tanzania health link

A film celebrating an award-winning international partnership which has transformed healthcare in Tanzania has been screened.

‘Novemba’ tells the story of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s link with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC).

For more than 15 years, Northumbria’s volunteer teams have provided training and support to staff at KCMC which has vastly improved patients’ experiences and included introducing laparoscopic – key-hole – surgery as a new service for Tanzania.

The behind-the-scenes documentary, which will be premiered at the Global Health Film Festival in London in November, follows the team as they perform the country’s first laparoscopic day-case operation – where the patient has the procedure and goes home the same day.

So pleased with the outcome, the patient who had the procedure to remove her gallbladder invited the surgeons – Northumbria’s Mr Liam Horgan and Dr Kondo Chilonga from KCMC – to visit her at home to show how well she was feeling and to thank them.   

Northumbria Healthcare is at the forefront of work in the international volunteering field and is recognised across the NHS for its work to develop international links which is supported by the trust’s Bright charity.

Mr Horgan, consultant upper gastrointestinal laparoscopic surgeon at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “By working in partnership with our colleagues at KCMC for the last fifteen-plus years we have been able to overcome immense challenges in order to improve healthcare for people living in Tanzania.

“Introducing laparoscopic surgery to Tanzania was a momentous achievement which has greatly improved patients’ experiences by reducing length and stay and overcrowding on the ward.

“From that day on we were determined to take it a step further and enable a patient to go home on the same day as their operation – something that is commonplace in the UK but was unheard of there.

“It is absolutely fantastic that the documentary captured this major event which was a real revelation for the staff but, most of all, patients.

“To visit the woman’s house the next day and to see her utter joy was a sheer delight and epitomised everything that the link is about and why I became a doctor.

“In this country with people’s experiences of the NHS, it’s hard to imagine the environment in which our colleagues in Tanzania operate and we hope this documentary will open people’s eyes into their world and what can be achieved by working together.”

Dr Kondo, head of surgery at KCMC, attended the film’s screening at the Tyneside Cinema.

He said: “I was delighted to be able to be in the UK to attend the screening of the documentary which really brings home the benefits that working with Northumbria Healthcare has brought.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support Northumbria has provided us and quite simply, without it, we wouldn’t have been able to introduce laparoscopic surgery which has transformed the way we perform operations in our hospital. Now we have trained surgeons in other hospitals across Tanzania so our work is benefitting the entire country.

“Understandably there was much anxiety before we did our first day-case keyhole procedure however with careful planning and effective teamwork it took place and we could not have hoped for a better outcome or a more satisfied patient.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Northumbria Healthcare and pushing our boundaries yet further to benefit our patients.”

Jerome Marshall the clinical psychologist who supports the team’s work in Tanzania flew in from South Africa for the screening as a surprise for the team

Teesside University’s Aurora House Productions worked in partnership with Northumbria Healthcare to produce the film.

David McPhee and Dominic Dunn, from Aurora House Productions, said: “It has been an amazing experience being able to document the fantastic work carried out by the Northumbria team. We hope this film raises awareness of and demonstrates Northumbria’s successful approach to international partnerships.”

To view a short trailer, visit:

The trust’s work in Tanzania has been rewarded with three national awards. Its Bright charity supports project both in Northumberland and North Tyneside and abroad which make a difference to patients.