Cash support to help expand volunteering

Brenda Longstaff and Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre students.
Brenda Longstaff and Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre students.

Health bosses are to expand on their award-winning international volunteering work after securing a cash boost.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has received £25,000 from the Academic Health Science Network for North East and North Cumbria to develop an online resource for NHS staff volunteering abroad.

The website aims to encourage more NHS staff to volunteer by sharing practical information, updates on developments, as well as acting as a platform for volunteers to share experiences.

Brenda Longstaff, head of international partnerships at the trust, said: “The project gives us an opportunity to look across the whole of the north east and North Cumbria area and connect with other people who are doing international work in order for us to come together to share best practice and learn from each other.

“International experience is particularly relevant today as the NHS provides healthcare to an increasingly multi-cultural nation.

“Knowledge and skills gained from overseas work improves cultural awareness and also awareness of global health issues. This is particularly important at a time of high profile pandemics.”

“Healthcare staff who have worked overseas are more likely to have the skills to help the NHS respond to these sort of challenges.”

Northumbria Healthcare has been undertaking international work for 15 years.

Over that time the trust has built up a long-lasting connection with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre. The trust’s charity, Bright, has supported the project which sees employees volunteering their time to travel to Tanzania to train their African counterparts to enable them to provide improved medical services for patients in their country.

The training initially focused on physiotherapy, occupational therapy, clinical coding and wound management. However, the level of support has expanded over the years to include theatre nursing, sterile supplies, ultrasound and keyhole surgery – the first of its kind in Tanzania.

Thanks to this experience and expertise, the trust has also developed links with Ghana and Nigeria.

Brenda, who has previously lived in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East and is a member of the NHS International Volunteering Group, added: “Over time we have seen significant benefits for our staff who have taken part in this work.

“It helps them build confidence and we often see them become keen to step forward to be leaders, which is a huge benefit to the NHS.

“Most people assume international volunteering is like a holiday but people who do this spend three months at a time working very hard.

“I know the Government is keen to see people sharing experiences because at the moment there are a lot of uncoordinated activities.

“They want to bring together groups so the level of outcomes is higher and they want to see things that are going to leave a lasting legacy.”