Telemedicine service set for expansion

Zambian villagers and a clinician celebrate the success of The Virtual Doctors
Zambian villagers and a clinician celebrate the success of The Virtual Doctors

Smartphones are saving lives in Africa, thanks to a clinical app provided by a small charity with a base in Shoreham.

The Virtual Doctors is working to raise awareness of its telemedicine service and gave a presentation to students and dignitaries at Lancing College about the expansion of the scheme.

Insight on the Hill, from left, trustee James Phiri, Worthing mayor and mayoress Alex and Fran Harman, board chairman Ian Kerr and trustee Ros Bird

Insight on the Hill, from left, trustee James Phiri, Worthing mayor and mayoress Alex and Fran Harman, board chairman Ian Kerr and trustee Ros Bird

Insight on the Hill included an emotive talk by founder Huw Jones, who held the audience spellbound as he explained what inspired him to want to start by helping people in rural Zambia.

Several years ago, he came across a desperate man trying to cycle 60km along a dirt road with his heavily pregnant wife, to get her to hospital.

Huw described his attempts to help as inadequate and shared his utter sense of helplessness when she passed away in his vehicle en route.

The experience left him with the feeling he needed to do something but he was not what.

Speaking to doctors in different countries, he realised there was a lot of people with the professional ability who wanted to help but were too far away. The solution was telemedicine.

Huw said: “There is a revolution sweeping the continent of Africa – a mobile technology revolution – and it is possible to connect doctors anywhere in the world with remote health centres in rural sub-Saharan Africa.

“My dream is coming true and with the support of others, we are beginning to offer help to reduce unnecessary referrals that will make a real difference.

“The poor lady on the bicycle could not be saved but the sheer determination of her husband has spurred me on and I truly believe that The Virtual Doctors service will help to save lives in the future.”

The national charity has an office at Shoreham Airport. Trustees and supporters were joined at Lancing College by the deputy high commissioner of Malawi, Worthing mayor and mayoress Alex and Fran Harman, Adur District Council chairman Peter Metcalfe and medical professionals to hear about the work of the charity.

A number of students from the school’s thriving medical group were also present.

They learned that the ground-breaking service that is being delivered into rural health centres in Zambia is about to be launched in Malawi.

Presenters explained how the bespoke software app, designed by a volunteer team at Landmark Information Group, had literally taken the telemedicine service to a new level.

The app has been designed to transform the way rural health centres access vital advice, diagnosis and treatment support from a pool of qualified volunteer doctors in the UK, by harnessing the power of mobile phone technology, in order to deliver vital patient care to patients in isolated communities.

Ms Quent Kalichero, who was representing Mr Kena Mphonda, Malawi High Commissioner to the UK, said: “We are very pleased that the service will be offered in Malawi and want to thank The Virtual Doctors, their staff and generous supporters for enabling it to be delivered in our country.”

For more information about the charity, email enquiries@virtualdoctors.org or call Lina on 01273 454755.