Emergency Medicine consultant shares his experience helping in Malawi's fight against Covid-19 | Latest news

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Emergency Medicine consultant shares his experience helping in Malawi's fight against Covid-19

Dr Iain Lennon during his visit to Malawi in 2021

An Emergency Medicine consultant at Royal Derby Hospital has shared his experiences of helping in the fight against Covid-19 in Malawi back in October 2021.

Dr Iain Lennon, who works in A&E, spent three weeks supporting healthcare colleagues in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city, to help share his expertise to aid in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

During his time abroad, Dr Lennon helped to review Malawi’s Covid-19 guidelines, delivered oxygen therapy and worked on planning capacity ahead of predicted fourth wave, but was also able to bring learning back to his role at UHDB.

Dr Lennon said: “The ability to step out of the day-to-day of my NHS role into a very different setting has helped me to look at my day job and see where we perhaps take things for granted, like equipment or availability of specialists.

“By reviewing Malawi’s Covid-19 guidelines, I became much more aware of oxygen. It made me more of an oxygen champion. The problem-solving mindset that you develop helps you to see that for some apparently intractable problems, there may be a different solution.  I’m thinking mainly of using oxygen concentrators in Derby, in an area where we have been using oxygen cylinders. 

Dr Iain Lennon during his visit to Malawi in 2021“Problem solving is always a useful skill to have, but in the NHS sometimes it feels like we may have tried everything: this is a reminder that perhaps there is still something else we can do.”

This opportunity arose due to Dr Lennon’s involvement with the charity UK-Med, which provides emergency medical care following large or sudden disasters. The charity has also recently published a report on learning doctors and nurses have been able to bring back to the NHS with them following being deployed overseas.

Access UK-Med’s report online (opens in new window) >

 As part of this work, Dr Lennon has also been deployed to Bangladesh back in 2017 to help combat an outbreak of diphtheria.

It is from these experiences that he has been able to bring new ideas to the fore back at Royal Derby Hospital which have come in use during the pandemic.

Dr Lennon added: “After working alongside a local medical charity in Bangladesh to treat a two-year-old girl who had succumbed to advanced diphtheria and sadly died, I vividly remember the effect on the whole team that day, and how as a group their de-brief was to say a prayer.

“I’ve tried to take this idea without the religious connotations back to Derby; and if there’s a significant event will try to gather the team to take a moment away from the ‘shop floor’ to reflect and acknowledge what has just happened.”

Working through the outbreak of diphtheria, Dr Lennon also gained experience in working in PPE and swabbing protocols:

“Having been part of a diphtheria outbreak response in Bangladesh, where we’d been wearing gowns, googles and gloves for three weeks flat, I’d gained the familiarity and comfort of working in PPE all day, way before anyone else in my department.

“So when Covid first hit, I remember mentoring one of our clinical practitioners in how to swab patients safely."