New study demonstrates the long-term impact of scholarships on anaesthesia training in Uganda

A new report published today in the journal Anaesthesia reveals how a low-cost intervention run jointly by the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) and the Association of Anesthesiologists of Uganda (AAU) has transformed surgical care by increasing the number of specialist anaesthetists in the country. 

Launched in 2006, the Uganda Fellowship set out to address the critical shortage of anaesthetists in Uganda.  Ten years ago there were less than 300 anaesthetists in Uganda for a population of 41m, even fewer of them doctors. Access to safe surgery and anaesthesia could not be guaranteed. By contrast, the UK (population 64m) has around 15,000 doctors working in the NHS who specialise in anaesthesia: the presence of an anaesthetist is guaranteed, ensuring that surgery will be safe and pain free.

The new report shows that the Uganda Fellowship scheme has succeeded in its main aim of increasing the number of doctors training and working as anaesthetists in Uganda. Under the scheme, scholarships (a relatively small financial incentive of on average £5,520 per doctor spread over 3 years) have encouraged junior doctors to take up postgraduate training in anaesthesia. In total 54 Ugandan doctors have received scholarship funding, and have developed obstetric and paediatric anaesthesia training programmes, distributed life-saving anaesthesia monitors (the Lifebox pulse oximeters), and are now starting to develop specialist services such as intensive care, cardiac and neurosurgical anaesthesia. Many of these doctors were training without a salary at the start of the scheme, and many took up posts in externally-funded public health programmes.  The other aims of the scheme were to support training for non-physician anaesthetists, improve obstetric care and raise the profile of the specialty of anaesthesia in Uganda.

The report also demonstrates the sustainability of the Uganda Fellowship scheme:

  • All fellows completing their training are still working in Africa, with the majority in Uganda (89%).
  • Most fellows (89%) have received formal training as a medical educator through the Safer Anaesthesia From Education (SAFE) project and teach medical students, anaesthetic officers and anaesthesia residents.
  • 21 fellows have taught on at least one of the SAFE obstetric or paediatric courses in Uganda, and several have taught on and provided a leadership role for SAFE courses elsewhere in East and Central Africa.

The report concludes that the success of the Uganda Fellowship Scheme has made a significant contribution to the transformation of the specialty of anaesthesia in the country.

Research lead Dr Adam Hewitt-Smith says: “The AAGBI’s Uganda Fellowship Scheme has had a profound impact on patient care and the safety of anaesthesia in the country. Most importantly, it has created a group of motivated, young leaders in the specialty who share a vision for the future of anaesthesia in Uganda. With greater involvement of anaesthetists in the entire surgical pathway has come greater advocacy for patients and an increase in the services offered to patients, especially in post-operative care.”


Notes to Editors
The full report can be accessed online through the journal Anaesthesia:

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