Burden of global health must be shared

Leading doctors from across the UK, Ireland and Africa are meeting in Glasgow today to discuss what more can be done to deliver medical and surgical care around the world.

The meeting, held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, was called to address the challenges being faced by many low and middle income countries to deliver safe and affordable healthcare.

Vice President (Surgical) of the College, Mr Mike McKirdy said, "Global health is an issue that affects us all and we need to look at ways to share the burden of care around the world. Sub Saharan Africa, for example, holds 25% of the burden of disease with only 3% of the healthcare workforce.

"There are enormous benefits for UK medical students, trainees and consultants spending time working and learning in different parts of the world. Their contribution has enormous benefits to the communities and hospitals they serve in low and middle income economies, while their personal skills and experiences gained significantly impacts on their personal development as healthcare professionals."

Currently around five billion people cannot access safe surgery when it is needed. In some parts of the world as many as 90% of people have no access. For those who can access surgery, as many as one in four people undergoing an operation will face catastrophic expenses. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimates that 20-40 surgeons, anaesthetics, and obstetricians (SAO) are needed for every 100,000 people. Currently, 44% of people live in countries with less than 20 SAOs per 100,000. The greatest need is in Africa.

At the meeting, delegates will hear that there is a strong economic case for investing in global surgery and that volunteering from the UK to low and middle income countries is a two way stream, with mutual benefits.

Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf MSP, opened the meeting saying he wanted Scotland to be known as the most compassionate country in the world.

He said, "Behind every project and statistic there is a human story. We must never lose our social consciousness."

President of the College, Professor Frank Dunn CBE requested the Minister to provide continued leadership in this area and support for the College's work. He also asked for continued work to make volunteering easier for NHS Scotland staff. And he asked for the Minister's support in spreading the word about the benefits of volunteering, which will be felt in both Africa and Scotland.

Mr Yousaf made a commitment to discuss with health boards opportunities for medical workforce volunteering to support healthcare initiatives in other parts of the world.

The meeting will involve presentations and discussions among leading healthcare professionals and decision makers from around the world including one of the authors of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, Mr Andrew Leather; President of the International Federation of Surgical Colleges, Mr Bob Lane; President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Mr Declan J Magee; Head of Surgery in Malawi, Professor Nyengo Mkandawire; and Principal Officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, David Hope-Jones.

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