Championing Health Partnerships to provide responsive not prescriptive global healthcare for over 25 years.

When he first landed on the coast of Nigeria with his wife Helen in 1960, the physician Eldryd Parry was not expecting to spend the majority of his career in Africa. He was only seconded for a year's term there but he extended his stay by half a year. Having had a successful experience at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, the largest teaching hospital in West Africa at the time, Eldryd came back to the UK and took up academic work on health issues in Africa. What he noticed about British aid at the time was the lack of responsiveness. Rather, British aid was prescriptive and not decided by the countries in need, so in 1988 Eldryd founded the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET).

The 1990s marked a period of gradual growth for THET. It was during this time that THET was starting to use Health Partnerships as a process of supporting local communities and Ministries of Health in Africa.

The first major health partnership facilitated by THET was between Nottingham City Hospital and Jimma Institute of Health Sciences, Ethiopia, now a teaching hospital. THET’s role in this partnership was a major step in realising how the partnership model would develop institutions as a whole, having a broader impact than if the project focussed on just one disease.

 A partnership between THET and King’s College started working in Somaliland in 2002 and delivered training courses at Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, in Hargeisa he KTSP continued to develop partnerships with local institutions to improve healthcare in the region. 

‘This is the most effective assistance programme that I have ever experienced in my 30 years in education. Assistance in the past was top to bottom where Washington, London or Rome would dictate. But this was designed by Amoud University and we asked for assistance in the way we needed, so it is a partnership. Their assistance is not supplanting our efforts but supplementing them.’ - Dr. Said Ahmed Walhad, Dean of the medical faculty at Amoud University

THET began capacity building project work in Zambia in 2009 facilitating critical training in neglected areas of health professional support. Drawing on expertise across the UK health sector, THET engages volunteers with the necessary medical and education expertise to deliver training in specialisms such as anaesthesia, pathology and psychiatry, as well as biomedical engineering. THET has close working relationships with the Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders, notably the University of Zambia, the Northern Technical College (NORTEC) and the Health Professions Council.

In 2009, the International Health Links Funding Scheme was launched, a major new investment from the UK government in support of the Health Partnership model. The programme was developed from recommendations in Lord Crisp’s 2007 report, and the 2008 UK government’s response to the Crisp report. The programme, which was jointly managed by THET (lead partner) and the British Council and concluded in March 2013. 

THET successfully won the bid to manage the Health Partnership Scheme (HPS) in 2010, a £30 million programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The scheme aims to improve health outcomes for poor people in DFID priority and other low income countries by supporting health partnerships to deliver projects aimed at improving the skills and education of health workers.

Now, in its sixth year, HPS supports over 157 institutional health partnerships in the delivery of projects to improve the skills and knowledge of the health workforce in low and middle-income countries.  To date, over 50,000 health workers have received training, education and peer-to-peer support as part of strategic and long-term organisational arrangements.

THET continues to grow and build on the relationships we have forged with health institutions and professionals around the world We now have country presence in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in order to co-ordinate the huge range of health partnership work happening in the those countries. We are building on our partnership with Johnson & Johnson to deliver our Africa Grants Programme which offers training packages to improve surgical and anaesthetic care with a focus on mothers and children. And, over 25 years later, all our work is based on the ideas Professor Parry developed during his formative work in Africa - that project work should be responsive not prescriptive, and that if there is mutual trust and a willingness on both sides to learn from each other, then good work will happen. This is the philosophy that THET is built on and one that we will continue to promote as we move forward.