The Link was officially started in September 2004 with a request from the Tropical Health Education Trust to host two Ugandan staff members for several weeks. This was followed up by a visit in May 2005 to Uganda by two senior managers to explore how the Link could operate. East London NHS Foundation Trust Board approved the formalisation of the Link following that visit and after three years of intense activity and successful fundraising now support a part time co-ordinator to continue the efforts.
Since its inception East London NHS Foundation Trust have hosted another over a dozen Ugandan visitors and facilitated 10 visits by East London Foundation Trust staff to Uganda. East London NHS Foundation Trust have provided training and service development in the areas of the Psychiatric Clinical Officer role, user involvement, drug and alcohol services, inpatient care, Occupational Therapy and child & adolescent care, and community Mental Health Services. Exchange staff have come from the full gamut of professional disciplines.
During exchange visits, East London NHS Foundation Trust staff have provided specific workshops and training that have facilitated new and better services.
Of exchange visits by Ugandan health professionals the Link has been successful in bidding for 20 Commonwealth Fellowships. These health professionals, stayed for 3 to 6 months and were placed within Community, Child and Adolescent, Inpatient, Psychotrauma, Occupational Therapy and Forensic services where they receive support and experience alongside East London NHS Foundation staff. The Link recently had a service user leader visit on a Fellowship.
The Child and Adolescent workstream of the Link has been a key player in supporting development and recognition of specialist mental health skills within Uganda. They are currently working on both academic and service developments after successfully bidding for a two year project with UKAid.
The Link was also responsible for an international ‘first’, with the Heartsounds Tour, which involved a group of mental health service users from the UK travelling to Uganda in 2008 to meet their counterparts and promote greater involvement of their peers in mental health service development. A film was made of the event that was used to teach City University Health students about issues of poverty, culture and user involvement. The Link has strong links service user organisations, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and statutory organisations in Uganda. The Link is, with the assistance of UKAid, running the country's first Mental Health Peer Support Worker Scheme whereby well service users support their peers who have recently been discharged home from hospital.
The Link has completed two IHLFS (International Health Linking Funding Scheme) projects, namely the Uganda wide PCO project, that is focused on teaching Psychiatric Clinical Officers psychological and project skills, and an antiviolence project teaching staff de-escalation methods to respond effectively to aggression and violence in a hospital setting. The PCO project has led to increases in the learning and application of psychologic and project skills amongst this group of workers in Uganda. The antiviolence project has led to massive decreases in hospital based violence.
Benefits of the Link
The benefits of the Link are many and occur at individual, institutional and national levels. For our Ugandan colleagues:
- benefits to staff include increased knowledge
- skills and expertise on a range of specialist areas
- knowledge of alternative methods of working with mental health problems
- the development of new protocols and services and increased cultural awareness
The consequent impact on patient care can be found with staff spending more time with service users, utilising more skills and offering a greater range of services.
For staff of East London NHS Foundation Trust, the opportunity to be involved in the Link leads to greater confidence, improved teamwork, greater adaptability, the promotion of innovation and improved cultural awareness. On a broader level, the Link is a powerful staff retention tool that also demonstrates the Trusts’ interest in its’ broader social responsibilities.
Some articles about the Link can be found at: www2.rcn.org.uk/london/news_stories/article636
Particularly looking for people with experience of research and project development. We are keen to work in partnership with researchers to measure the impact of our work and scale up our successful initiatives. Keen also to collaborate around user involvement both within Uganda but with other low income country groups.