Hospital trust launches project to improve eye care in Kenya

Southampton-Kenya training

Staff at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have launched a partnership with colleagues in Kenya to help them improve the availability and quality of basic eye care for more than four million people.

The link between Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit and four centres in the East African country’s Eastern Province will see clinicians, managers and other staff exchange medical and organisational skills over the next three years.

Seven specialists, including consultant ophthalmologists Richard Newsom, Aby Jacob and Roger Humphrey, visited The Light House, The Coast, The Lions and Kwale hospitals in November before formally agreeing plans this month.

During the trip they met with staff to view current facilities and discuss how they could meet training needs before holding basic sessions on treatment options and ongoing care for patients with diabetic eye disease and glaucoma.

“More than 80% of cases of blindness in Kenya are either preventable or curable if patients receive the basic care and treatment they need early, but the lack of resources, facilities and skills means people are often left helpless and that is tragic,” said Mr Newsom, a specialist in vitreoretinal and cataract surgery.

“To put things in context, our 15 consultants and 15 trainees in Southampton look after around 500,000 patients, while our colleagues in Kenya attempt to contend with four consultants for more than four million people – and all without the advances in medicine and technology we are fortunate enough to have in the UK.”

In addition to medical skills, the team will help develop the centres with support and guidance from theatre manager Andrew Talbot-New and Jane Hayward, director of organisational development at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Newsom added: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us to make a difference, not just in the eastern coastal region, but across Kenya over the three-year period and, in return, gather information from our colleagues on other diseases and methods of working which can help us to improve.”

The Southampton-Kenya programme forms part of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust’s international relations project, which also includes work in Ghana, Nepal and Ethiopia, and is supported by Southampton Hospital Charity.

To make a donation to the Southampton-Kenya fund, contact the charity team on 023 8120 8881.

Posted on Tuesday 24 January 2012