Southmead Hospital’s maternity team to deliver care internationally

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Medical staff from Southmead Hospital’s maternity services have been selected for a volunteering scheme that will provide training on life-saving healthcare to medical workers in some of the world’s poorest countries, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced today.

Skilled health professionals from across Britain will teach and offer practical assistance to their counterparts in the developing world under the Government’s Health Partnership Scheme.

Over four years, the flagship programme will:

  • Train 13,000 overseas healthcare workers across many disciplines, including trauma care, mental health, anaesthesia and maternal and child health;
  • Support 142 skilled British healthcare volunteers for 6 months or over;
  • Enable 600 UK healthcare workers to volunteer overseas on short term placements.

British health workers will pass on their experience to colleagues in developing countries with practical ‘on the job’ training by demonstrating their skills on patients.

They will also offer one-to-one mentoring, run courses and develop guidelines and protocols to ensure clinics run more effectively.

A team of obstetricians and midwives from the South West set up the PROMPT Maternity Foundation in 2010 from Southmead Hospital to deliver training in safe maternity care to organisations across the UK and the world.

The PROMPT team, whose work with other organisations is funded through charitable grants and donations, have already rolled out their training to maternity units in countries like Egypt, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

The Health Partnership Scheme has awarded PROMPT £30,000 over two years to continue their work with a maternity hospital in Zimbabwe.

Dr Joanna Crofts, an obstetrician at Southmead Hospital, is part of the PROMPT team.

She said: “This new partnership scheme will allow us to continue to develop our links with Mpilo Hospital, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

“The training encompasses procedures and skills during labour when babies have got into difficulty which has lead to significantly improved outcomes for mothers and babies in Bristol and the UK.

“We have already been out to the Mpilo hospital in Zimbabwe to train their own members of staff in delivering this life-saving work.

“We believe the expertise we have gained at Southmead  Hospital will help improve clinical outcomes for babies in these developing countries.

“Not only are we sharing this vital practice and knowledge but we are learning more ourselves about how our work can be used to make advances in maternity care.”

The scheme also benefits volunteers as they return to the NHS with increased knowledge, better leadership skills and an improved ability to deal with complex situations under pressure.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “British nurses, midwives and medical teams are among the best in the world.

"The Health Partnership Scheme allows us to harness their expertise to help give developing countries the skills needed to improve the health of some of the world’s poorest people.

"It is an international scandal that one thousand women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth and tackling the tragic scale of maternal and child deaths is a key priority for the British Government.”

The programme is part of the Coalition Government’s commitment to save the lives of at least 50,000 women during pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies by 2015.

The scheme will support up to 50 international partnerships between the NHS and UK institutions and developing countries’ health systems.

Partnerships will be encouraged to support the use of innovations in technology, such as live internet link-ups and the use of mobile phones for emergency referrals and operations.

An electronic database, launched today, matches requests for help from developing countries against offers from other countries, including the UK, to provide health assistance.

Information about PROMPT

When PROMPT training was introduced at Southmead hospital in 2000 the number of babies born with birth injuries fell by 70%.

The training has improved outcomes for mothers and their babies, not only in the UK but across the world.

In Zimbabwe one in 43 women die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, and it is hoped that introducing PROMPT training to Zimbabwe will save lives there.

A team of midwives and doctors from Southmead Hospital travelled to Zimbabwe in November 2011 to train midwives and doctors at Mpilo hospital to run their own PROMPT training. 

Since November the staff at Mpilo have trained 75 of their own staff with more courses planned in June this year.

The partnership grant will enable the team at Mpilo and Southmead Hospital to evaluate the effect of PROMPT training at Mpilo and help set up PROMPT training in other local hospitals in Zimbabwe.

The Health Partnership Scheme (HPS) is a four-year programme to support the development of health services in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The scheme is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and managed by THET (Tropical Health & Education Trust).

Date of release: May 8 2012