Excited to see how far this mission can go by Lucy Hughes - Stanton, Physiotherapist, Cambridge University Hospitals

Munish.Datta's picture

As I mentioned in my pre-trip blog (https://ramafoundation.org.uk/node/51), I was the first physio to join the Rama Foundation on their yearly visits to Rishikesh, India and so I was going with no prior knowledge or expectations about what the trip might look like for me. Paula, Rachel and I were lucky enough to fly to India a week before the volunteering started in order to get a glimpse of India. We travelled the golden triangle (Jaipur, Delhi and Agra) and were able to see some of India’s highlights including the Taj Mahal and the Hawa Mahal. I am so glad we did get to do a week of travelling first as it not only gave us time to get over the jet lag and acclimatise to the heat but also to immerse ourselves in the country and its culture which in turn helped us to better understand the healthcare systems.

Prior to leaving the UK we had all been asked to prepare some clinical presentations for the university hospital students and staff members – I gave a presentation on Spinal Cord Injuries and their rehabilitation/early management. While I feel the presentations were beneficial to some of the students and staff I feel I had more impact with some impromptu teaching at Ganga Prem Hospice (GPH) with their staff members. It was hard for me to ignore the lack of manual handling equipment and training that was available to staff members both in the hospice and hospital. Manual handling equipment and training in the NHS plays such a vital part in patient and staff safety as well as in the patient’s rehabilitation journey and so witnessing members of staff and students transferring patients in and out of bed by manually lifting them and ‘PAT slides’ with just a scarf and no board was quite a shock for me. The staff members at the hospice expressed that there was a high rate of staff back injuries, which wasn’t overly surprising to hear. I carried out two manual handling teaching sessions for the staff at the hospice that were focused on the importance of keeping themselves safe as well as their patients and correct back positions when completing manual handling. I couldn’t magically provide manual handling equipment as we have in the NHS and so I showed them techniques that could minimise their manual handling and hopefully reduce their risk of injury. The staff at GPH were so receptive and so keen to learn in order to better their care for the benefit of their patients. I have plans with both GPH and Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences (HIMS) to provide ongoing teaching about manual handling and send resources such as posters and leaflets to help raise the importance of safe manual handling.

Along with visiting the hospice, we also visited HIMS. It was a completely different experience compared to GPH. HIMS is comparable on many levels to CUH. It is a teaching hospital with a university connected to it, there are more than 1000 beds and they have some fantastic facilities. However, there are also many differences. One that probably was most apparent to us was the huge disparity between the number of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) and the role they have in the hospital compared to CUH. For the entire hospital there are 9 qualified physiotherapists and this isn’t due to vacancies, this is the number of funded physiotherapy jobs the hospital has. HIMS demonstrated to us that the patient’s care is largely directed by the Doctor and AHPs do not have the same autonomy that we see in the NHS. This I feel is going to be a big challenge for us when trying to form links with hospitals and healthcare facilities in India as the AHP job role is viewed so differently. A key aim going forward will be to increase the awareness of the scope of practise that each AHP profession has to offer and how that can 1) decrease the pressure on the medical team and 2) increase the clinical outcomes for the patients.

This was the first time that I had ever visited India and it was such an incredible experience. The food, the culture, the people and the roads are all things I will remember for a long time! We as a group have some fantastic memories – especially the ones that involve the River Ganges and taxis…! Looking back on the trip I feel it was a very productive ‘scouting’ mission which has given us a lot to think about in terms of how we can be most useful to the hospices and hospitals that we visited. I feel extremely privileged to have been given this opportunity and so excited to see how far this mission can go.

Watch Lucy volunteering in India: https://youtu.be/bdMXH8Lk89c