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NSFT staff join forces with hospital in Africa to battle threat of superbugs

Staff from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) have been specially chosen to work with colleagues at a rural hospital in Africa, as part of an international bid to tackle the global threat of superbugs.

The Commonwealth Partnerships for Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) scheme selected 12 projects to run across Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia – and a project led by NSFT’s Pharmacy team is one of them.

A multi-disciplinary team of pharmacists, doctors and specialist nurses, led by NSFT Chief Pharmacist Esther Johnston, is working with staff at The Assemblies of God Hospital in the small town of Saboba, in Northern Ghana, near Togo, for a year.

One of the aims of the project is to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics, which is blamed for the increase in antimicrobial resistance and the rise of so-called superbugs – bacteria which are immune to antibiotics. 

The aim overall is to improve AMS practices through raising awareness, improving protocols and developing tools that will reduce the spread and increase of antimicrobial resistance, using training packages, videos, etc.

Chief Pharmacist Esther Johnston said: “We are delighted to have been selected for this exciting scheme. It’s a great opportunity to share our experience and expertise in tackling overprescribing and infection control, but also to increase our understanding by learning from our colleagues in Ghana.

“Antimicrobial resistance is an increasing problem worldwide and, although the message is getting through in wealthier countries such as our own, in many low and middle-income countries antibiotics are still seen by many people as a medicine of first resort.

“Our job will be to help staff at the hospital understand the importance of prescribing antibiotics only when absolutely necessary, to advise on alternatives, and to help them guide patients in the community, where there is a culture of expecting medication, especially antibiotics, when someone is unwell. 

“Antibiotics are widely available to buy from pharmacies and even market stalls, so getting the message out to the wider community will be just as important.”

The NSFT team is working with Samuel Odonkor, General Manager, and Jean Young, Paediatric Surgeon, at the hospital, and Samrina Bhatti, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow at Specialist Pharmacy Service.

Mr Odonkor said: “We are delighted to be working with NSFT on this project to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance, and look forward to the benefits that this partnership will bring to the people who use our services.”

The partnership will include occasional visits to the hospital, although much of the support will be provided via Skype, phone and email.

The scheme, managed by the Tropical Health and Education Trust with support from the Commonwealth Pharmacists Association, is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care’s Fleming Fund to support partnerships between UK health institutions with strong records in antimicrobial stewardship, such as NSFT, and their counterparts across four African Commonwealth countries.

The aim of stewardship is to help contain and control antimicrobial resistance by 2040, bringing improvements in healthcare to people across Africa and delivering global benefits. 

The Assemblies of God Hospital, Saboba has an inpatient capacity of more than 100 beds, including paediatric, women’s, maternity and men’s wards, and an operating theatre. It also offers diagnostics (x-ray and ultrasound), eye care, outreach services, laboratory services, ambulance services, primary and mental health services, neonatal intensive care (NICU), antenatal and postnatal services, pastoral care and counselling, social welfare, blood transfusion, TB control services, HIV/AIDS antiretroviral care, reproductive and child health services.

Caption: Staff at the Assemblies of God Hospital, Saboba, Ghana. Pictured in the front row are, from left, Isaac Oyeme (Laboratory Technician), John Umborti (Translator at Outpatient Department), Dr Jean Young (Surgeon) and Andrews Mawanye (Theatre Labourer).

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