Ipswich Hospital staff teach colleagues in Mozambique as part of knowledge-sharing project

The team visits Beira Hospital

The team visits Beira Hospital - Credit: Archant

Staff from a Suffolk hospital who have volunteered their skills and expertise to boost healthcare overseas have been helping colleagues in Mozambique drive through safety improvements for their patients.

A teaching session at Beira Hospital

A teaching session at Beira Hospital - Credit: Archant

Peter Donaldson, retired surgeon, Sarah Cavanagh, senior pharmacist and nurse Luana Vendramel have recently returned from a week-long visit to Beira Central Hospital to review the way medication is managed, teach new skills to staff and improve equipment maintenance.

The trip came as part of a two-year government-funded initiative, which sees staff from Ipswich Hospital share their knowledge while improving their own leadership skills and ability to work under pressure in difficult circumstances.

It builds on a long-established partnership between Beira and Ipswich, which began in 2001 when diabetes consultant Prof John Day started a charitable trust to develop the medical school at the University of Mozambique.

“I have found this whole project hugely rewarding,” said Peter, who has now visited the country four times. “It’s been a great experience and has brought some real benefits for the people who work in the hospital and their patients.

“The facilities in Beira are quite challenging, and the infrastructure is so degraded that they struggle with basic amenities such as a reliable water supply. Despite this, the hospital cares successfully for several million people, carries out significant surgery and looks after lots of patients with serious illness, including malaria and other communicable diseases.

“A key focus of our work has been improving training for doctors, nurses and pharmacists and providing some basic equipment. We have helped organise the pharmacy and taught staff how to manage medicines more effectively and safely, which has made a real difference.

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“We have also arranged training for local engineers and provided them with tools so that they can service and repair vital equipment for the benefit of patients.”

Since the partnership began, the team have noticed significant improvements in Beira. Endoscopy and X-ray equipment and anaesthetic ventilators are now working more effectively after months of disrepair, while medicines are now being labelled and stored more safely.

In addition, recent investment from China has seen an ambitious programme of development at the hospital, with the emergency department refurbished and a new paediatric unit now under construction.

“Although some of the changes we have made are small, they are nevertheless important and we believe they will have a big impact reducing medication errors,” added Peter, formerly medical director at Ipswich Hospital.

“Those who volunteer are also bringing benefits back to the NHS, such as increased knowledge and leadership skills, a better knowledge of healthcare in other cultures and an improved ability to deal with complex situations under pressure.

“We hope that we will be able to attract further funding when the current project comes to an end in February, so that it can continue to bring benefits to both our own patients in Ipswich and those receiving care in Beira.”