Sheffield health trust supports development of mental health care in Africa

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Sheffield Health & Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC) held a small celebration last week to say farewell to their current Commonwealth Fellows.

Since 2012, SHSC has proudly supported 21 Commonwealth Fellows from Gulu, Northern Uganda as part of the Gulu Sheffield Mental Health Partnership.

Oyella Dorine, Ajok Christine and Okello Denish have spent the past two months living in Sheffield and completing a programme of learning which included leadership and management training, occupational therapy, discharge planning and risk management among other topics. All three work at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in Northern Uganda which offers an in-patient and out-patient service to people in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. The mental health ward at the hospital opened in 2004 and is a 40 bedded unit. It often has 50-80 people queuing on a daily basis for out-patient appointments.

At the farewell event Oyella Dorine spoke movingly about how good it was to see people in Sheffield being supported to stay at home and being supported in their community. She highlighted that there are no community mental health services in Gulu. Ajok Christine, who had spent time on SHSC’s in-patient wards, spoke about the compassionate care she had witnessed from staff towards service users. She was also impressed by the focus on physical as well as mental health and wellbeing, what is often termed the whole person approach to care. Okello Denish talked about Occupational Therapy and how valuable talking to people and showing respect is for people both in crisis and in recovery.

Greg Harrison, Partnership Co Ordinator said: “We are delighted that our Commonwealth Fellows had such a positive experience of their time in Sheffield and that they will be taking home both happy memories and valuable learning. Gulu Hospital is in a region which is recovering from the devastating effects of a 25 year Civil War. Mental health problems include very high rates of anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and increasing incidences of completed suicides. We are committed to supporting the staff at Gulu Hospital through the Gulu Sheffield Mental Health Partnership to improving the quality of mental health care provided to patients.”

Kim Parker, Senior Nurse and Clinical Lead Gulu Sheffield Mental Health Partnership, said: “We are very proud that we have been able to support the learning and development of so many of the staff from Gulu Hospital. In addition to the Commonwealth Fellows visiting Sheffield, our staff visit Gulu at least once a year and provide a range of training and support to the staff at the hospital. This includes medication training, mental health awareness training and our RESPECT training programme which focuses on identifying the causes of aggression and using de-escalation techniques. Crucially it teaches restraint techniques that do not use a face down position which is a position frequently associated with harm to the patient.”