Orthopaedic project delivers vital help to Kenya

Two academics from the University of Plymouth have recently returned from a trip to Kenya as members of an orthopaedic surgical partnership to help patients get back on their feet.

Alongside health professionals from around the south west, and working with Kenyan hospital practitioners themselves, Alice Inman and Dr Matt Ward from the University’s Global Health programme travelled to Nyahururu District Referral Hospital with Kenya Orthopaedic Project.

The project performs vital surgery and treatment on people who are unable to access the specialist services they need, working alongside the local team to “share skills and transform lives”.

The project was initiated by Dr Lucy Obolensky from the University of Plymouth 10 years ago and, on average, two to three camps have taken place each year. It is now led by Christoph McAllen, Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon from University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHPNT) but the full team consists of multidisciplinary practitioners from across the south west.

The team assesses in excess of 200 patients at a time, performing surgery on around 25 and providing conservative management or advice to the others. Alice Inman, Senior Physiotherapist for the project and programme lead for MSc Global and Remote Healthcare, said: 

“This project has been running for several years now, but it never fails to amaze me how many people and the variety of problems we see. The partnership continues to develop. This time we ran a pilot of an electronic notes and referral system, which was enthusiastically adopted by the local team who could see real potential for sustainable change in the future.

“On this trip, a 10-year-old boy’s hip was dislocated after he was sat on by a cow he was tending for the family. This had been left untreated for four months, leaving him unable to walk, and he needed a complex surgical procedure to relocate it. It’s our help alongside the professionals in Kenya that has got him mobile again. It’s events like this that show the unmet need of trauma consequence around the world – and since arriving back in the lead up to Christmas, it’s really made us all think about the value of ‘people’ over ‘stuff’.”

Dr Matthew Ward, a Consultant Anaesthetist at UHPNT, said: 

“It’s not just the impact on the local people that’s so important, it’s the impact on the professionals that make the trip. It’s a humbling, eye-opening and moving experience to help people who have little or no access to help, while also empowering the local health professionals to practise safer and effective surgery.”

Alice added: 

“In future we hope to be able to take students out to experience the project’s impact and to provide a supportive environment for venturing into the wonderful world of global health volunteering. Our MSc Global Health is about to have the addition of a leadership pathway giving the opportunity to develop advanced knowledge and skills to a wider range of health professional graduates. Volunteering in a global setting is becoming increasingly recognised as good for Britain and the NHS as well as having an impact worldwide.”

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