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‘Global connections’ conference celebrates international work of region’s NHS

Tuesday, 21 July, 2015
‘Global connections’ conference celebrates international work of region’s NHS

The work of the region’s NHS in developing health links with some of the world’s poorest countries has been celebrated at a major conference held in Newcastle.

Organised by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the ‘global connections’ event showcased the breadth and diversity of international partnership working in the region.

Around 150 delegates from as far afield as Yorkshire and London gathered together with NHS leaders from the region to celebrate the hundreds of healthcare professionals who give their time to volunteer overseas to deliver charitable health projects and improve care for patients around the world.

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. For more than 15 years, teams have provided training and support to staff at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Tanzania to transform patients’ experiences.

This has included the setting up of ultrasound services in poor rural communities and introducing laparoscopic surgery as a new service for Tanzania.

The conference follows a project undertaken by Northumbria Healthcare, in partnership with the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria, to establish a regional network of NHS international health links.

The networking project has so far revealed 31 different international health links in 16 different countries many of which are in some of the world’s most challenging and complex environments, affected by natural disaster, conflict and extreme poverty.

Brenda Longstaff, head of international partnerships at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “It was excellent to bring international volunteers from across the region together for the first time to share expertise and ideas.

“There is an immense amount of work taking place which has, before now, largely been unconnected so this has been a brilliant opportunity to celebrate all the good work which is taking place and acknowledge the benefits that this work is bringing back to the NHS.

“As we increasingly deliver healthcare to a multi-cultural nation and are affected by global health concerns such as witnessed during the recent Ebola outbreak, it becomes more important to develop new knowledge and skills gained from international volunteering.”

Professor Tony Redmond, head of the UK’s emergency response team, was one of the keynote speakers at the event which attracted leading figures from across the country from different international partnerships.

He said: “Northumbria Healthcare is a recognised leader in the promotion of international volunteering within the NHS and I would like to congratulate them on the success of their link with Tanzania.

“As international volunteering within the NHS grows, there is a need to share best practice and the conference was a very important and timely event to share learning and hear about all the different projects which are taking place across the North East and Cumbria.

“There is a wealth of untapped altruism within the NHS workforce, over and above that which drives their everyday work. This can be harvested through volunteering which, if professional and integrated with their work here, will provide significant benefits to the delivery of healthcare, both here in the UK, and overseas.”

Six visiting medical students from Northumbria Healthcare’s link with KCMC presented at the conference about their experiences of placements in paediatrics, surgery and cardiology at North Tyneside General Hospital.

Prior to the students arriving, the trust also welcomed Dr Eusebious Maro, a gynaecologist from KCMC who visited as part of a Fellowship awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, a prestigious programme which enables healthcare professionals from developing countries to visit hospitals in the UK.

The trust’s work in Tanzania has been rewarded with three national awards.

For more about the trust’s link visit www.northumbria.nhs.uk/get-involved/charity

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