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21 July, 2018

With reference to the recent HIFA post:

'Realisation of telemedicine benefits is much less to do with the technology itself and much more around the context of the implementing organisation and its ability to implement'. This is the key result of a new paper.

When I read the current postings about the use of telemedicine it reminded me of the great challenges still to be faced by organisations seeking to introduce change.

Although telemedicine has been talked about for many years it has not gained as much traction as expected within healthcare services. Potentially it can offer so many benefits for service development as well as teaching and training.

A number of years ago Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (UK) developed a bespoke telementoring audio visual link as a viable option to train surgeons in Tanzania to perform laparoscopic surgery. In 2008 before fibre optic cable arrived along the shores of East Africa it was a challenge to ensure a stable and secure audio-visual connection to provide mentoring online as operations actually took place.

Over the years the many benefits of this model of long distance learning have become clear. Tanzanian surgeons did not have to plan for lengthy overseas visits to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to introduce laparoscopic surgery as a new service for Tanzania. Instead at a fraction of the cost, UK surgeons could travel to Tanzania for two weeks to support professional development and when they returned to the UK could continue to provide mentoring on a weekly basis via the telementoring link which took place every Tuesday morning. Over the years the numbers of successful procedures has reached almost 1000 with many patients now benefitting from Day Case surgery. The Tanzanian patients are the big winners as they can now have a less invasive procedure, less anaesthetic and need for pain killers, less time in hospital risking infection and therefore ultimately a quicker return to home life and work.

In 2016 a documentary film was made about two projects – this is the background.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has worked in partnership with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in northern Tanzania for almost 20 years. Along the way a lot has happened and a lot has been learnt by everyone involved. In 2016 the trust decided to capture the challenges of international volunteering by filming a week in the lives of the volunteer team whilst in Tanzania.

A 90 minute documentary film, ‘Novemba , was produced by Teesside University (UK). It provides a behind the scenes insight into two major projects, laparoscopic surgery and burns wound management. The film was premiered at the Global Health Film festival in 2016 and received positive reviews.

The ‘fly on the wall’ documentary provides an opportunity to watch Consultant Surgeons Mr Liam Horgan and Dr Kondo Chilonga (KCMC’s Head of Surgery) perform Tanzania’s first laparoscopic day case procedure, and experience the harsh reality and often heartbreak that the teams face on a day to day basis. It shows the gritty reality of healthcare provision in an environment where there are few resources but a great will to provide the best healthcare possible, often against extreme odds.

DISCLAIMER: This video contains graphic content and may be upsetting to some viewers



Brenda Longstaff MA FRSA

Head of Charity Development and Volunteering

Head of International Partnerships

Head of Arts & Patient Environment Programme

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Northumbria House

Unit 7-8 Silver Fox Way Cobalt Business Park Newcastle upon Tyne

NE27 0QJ

Landline + 44 191 2031351

Mobile +44 7899 796836

HIFA profile: Brenda Longstaff is Head of Charity & Volunteering / International Programme Manager, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. She worked initially within local government. For more than twelve years she lived overseas in countries in Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Since returning to the UK, Brenda has worked within the NHS as a senior operational manager on a number of major projects including a successful 15 year partnership with Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Tanzania. Brenda is a member of the NHS Volunteering Group and has presented before the parliamentary select committee for international development at the House of Commons. Her research, ‘Innovative workforce development: the case for international health links’ was published in the Health Service Journal. A toolkit developed by her to gather evidence of skills and knowledge gained from international volunteering, for annual appraisal and revalidation purposes, has recently been published by Health Education England. She is a frequent presenter at health links conferences and, as an acknowledged expert in the field, has contributed to many health links publications. She is currently leading on a UK Aid burns project in Tanzania which involves a multi-disciplinary team from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the North East Ambulance Service. Brenda.Longstaff@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk