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Family doctors will be asked to use their skills and expertise to help some of the world’s most vulnerable patients as Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) launch a working partnership to place UK GPs in MSF projects around the world.
The partnership – the first of its kind for MSF UAE - will initially run for three years and will involve placing two RCGP members in projects with a family medicine focus in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today (Monday 3 August) by representatives of both organisations.
The first posting will be to a project in Swaziland, where MSF teams provide access to free, quality healthcare, particularly for patients with tuberculosis, HIV and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. Teams also treat survivors of sexual violence.
One RCGP member turned MSF volunteer will be based at MSF’s Matsapha comprehensive care centre – a clinic specialising in treating patients who have both TB and HIV, which also offers maternal and child health services and supports the National TB Hospital which is based in the region.
The second placement in Irbid, Jordan – an area with high numbers of registered and unregistered Syrian refugees - will focus on treating patients with diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
These four groups of non-communicable diseases have been identified by the Ministry of Health and MSF as constituting the greatest disease burden amongst the refugees.
MSF already has projects in both countries, which have been supported by UK medics.
The landmark partnership will form a key element of the RCGP’s 10-year international strategy, which aims to promote global family medicine in the best interests of patient care.
The RCGP will support the recruitment of GP trained volunteers who will spend between six and 24 months in one of the placements. As well as clinical duties, volunteers will use leadership and training skills and focus on delivering the holistic care that is key to practising as GP in the UK.
Vickie Hawkins, Executive Director of Medecins sand Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said:
“We are very pleased to be signing this agreement with the RGCP. GPs are perfectly placed to make a significant contribution to MSF’s projects in the field; they not only have a range of skills, allowing them to treat children, adults and the elderly for a variety of conditions, they also have experience of running medical practices.
"In the challenging environments that our teams often face, this combination of skills will help us to carry on providing high quality medical care to those who might not otherwise have access to it.”
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said: “The College is committed to maintaining standards of patient care both in the UK and abroad, so we are delighted to be working with MSF to help some of the world's most vulnerable patients, in very fragile environments.
"The work proposed through this partnership will be challenging, but undoubtedly rewarding.
"I am confident that the resilience, compassion and dedication to providing excellent, holistic care for patients that UK GPs show at home, will be an asset to these MSF projects - and the patients being treated there."
RCGP Chief Executive Neil Hunt, said: "This is a very important partnership for the RCGP and one that I hope is just a beginning. Promoting general practice globally is key to our ambitious international strategy and I envisage this new partnership as being key to achieving our goals."
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