Help for NHS staff bringing healthcare to the world's poor

NHS staff from England who are planning health projects in the world's poorest communities are being supported by a new Department of Health fund, now opening its second wave (3 November 2004).

The Humanitarian Fund, run by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Department of Health, provides extra support for a number of humanitarian projects in developing countries.

The Fund, provided by the Department of Health, gives grants of up to £2,000 to multidisciplinary teams of health workers. Last year the Fund helped teams from across England to share expertise and provide healthcare in the heart of communities suffering from intense poverty, or post-war devastation.

The first wave of projects included:

  • Bangladesh - a team from Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust implementing a diagnostic ultrasound service at the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Dhaka.
  • Ethiopia - a nurse and clinical pharmacist from Sheffield training healthcare workers in Tigray in HIV prevention and treatment, plus infection control and prevention of accidental infection from bloodborne viruses when treating patients.
  • Pakistan - a team from Heatherwood and Wrexham Park Hospitals have been working to reduce mortality amongst children and mothers by providing a training and education programme, which will be cascaded across the country. Following this year's pilot programme in Pakistan, it is hoped this will also be implemented in other poorly resourced countries.

Dr Edwin Borman, head of the BMA's International Committee, said:

"These projects are a vital opportunity for NHS staff to make a difference in some of the developing world's most deprived areas.

"It is hard to believe that many people still go blind for the want of a cataract operation. Or that the newest approaches to treating HIV - or stemming the spread of the virus - are often unheard of in the very communities ravaged by the disease.

"Piece by piece these projects make a difference to people's lives. We should applaud the hard work and dedication of the doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare workers who undertake them, often in very difficult circumstances."

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