A team from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has received funding of £136,000 from the Health Partnership Scheme to develop a training programme to help the Sierra Leonean Health Service to fight future outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic fever.
Based from the Masanga Hospital in Sierra Leone, the work is the latest development in a series of innovative technology-based health training programmes provided by the Plymouth team in West Africa in collaboration with the Masanga Mentor Ebola Initiative. These include the use of immersive 3D educational technology aimed at preventing and controlling the spread of Ebola.
Viral haemorrhagic fever is a term which encompasses a number of viral diseases of which bleeding is a symptom. Included within the term are diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, dengue fever and the Marburg virus.
As a group these diseases claim thousands of lives across the world.
This particular project will work with the Sierra Leonean Health Service to deliver infection prevention control training and improve community awareness using technology which was developed and piloted in the region to combat Ebola – while the last Ebola patient in Sierra Leone was discharged from hospital just a few weeks ago, shortly later a community of 1000 was quarantined when one of their number contracted the disease. Clearly there will always be an ongoing need for projects such as this.
The technology will use distributed simulation and immersive learning which allows learners to be totally "immersed" in a self-contained artificial or simulated environment while experiencing it as real. Users tend to be very engaged because immersive environments are visual and interactive.
The simulated learning material will cover all aspects of infection prevention control and will be used in the short term to train community health workers in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone, with input from Masanga Hospital to provide training modules in triage, personal protection equipment use, decontamination and waste management, and community awareness.
In the medium term the project will provide training and workshops across 46 district Peripheral Health Units and monitor the effectiveness of the training. It will also build capacity by improving the availability of personal protective equipment and building a dedicated isolation facility at Masanga Hospital.
Dr Tom Gale, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Skills and Simulation at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PU PSMD), said:
“We are grateful to the Health Partnership Scheme which will help us to build on our experience so far with immersive learning in the care of Ebola patients and develop it to encompass disease prevention for the myriad of diseases which come within the viral haemorrhagic fever family of illnesses.”
“This is all about using the latest developments in learning technology, and our own experience as NHS clinicians and medical educators, to help local health care communities take ownership of the control of disease within their communities.”
Dr Austin Hunt from Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, who is also Chair of Masanga UK, commented:
“We were delighted with the grant which recognised eight years of work by the staff of both Plymouth NHS and PUPSMD. Masanga UK was formed by trustees from Derriford and this grant provides an opportunity to further develop global health links allowing our students and staff to gain experience in diseases of global importance. To date the team have opened a medical admissions unit and helped re-establish clinical services at Masanga Hospital. The development of this new educational tool will allow us to develop capacity in infection prevention control in the country.”
The project will last for 18 months.