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Doctor's marathon challenge to boost medical training in Africa

Southampton consultant anaesthetist and researcher Professor Mike Grocott is taking on the 2020 London Marathon, raising money to train anaesthetists in Africa. With 95 days to go, he’s putting himself through the same training that his team’s research has shown enables cancer patients to get fit for surgery – shrinking their tumours, improving their recovery and boosting their quality of life.

On Sunday, 26 April, Professor Grocott will be pounding the streets of London, raising money to train anaesthetists across Africa. Unlike the UK where there are 18 anaesthetists for every 100,000 patients and death due to anaesthesia is rare, surgery and childbirth in many African countries is much more risky, with less than 0.18 anaesthetists per 100,000 people in some cases.

Advancing anaesthesia

Professor Grocott’s fundraising for Safer Anaesthesia from Education (SAFE) through the Association of Anaesthetists (see link below) will help fund three-day training courses for doctors and non-doctor anaesthetists, who will go on to treat 1,500 patients a year and be able to train colleagues themselves as a result of the training.

“This is particularly important for the care of women around the time of childbirth and for young children, who do not have access to the sort of safe care that we all take for granted in the UK,” explains Professor Grocott.

As vice-president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the marathon challenge reflects Mike’s commitment to advancing anaesthesia and supporting anaesthetists’ professional development. It also mirrors the experience of cancer surgery patients who have benefited from being part of his team’s ground-breaking research.

“14 weeks to train is less than the recommended 20, but I can’t complain as it’s more than many of the cancer patients in our studies have to train for the gruelling challenge of major surgery,” adds Professor Grocott.

Following in participants' footsteps

Those ‘prehabilitation’ studies have shown that high intensity exercise can completely reverse the damage chemotherapy does to patients’ physical fitness by the time they enter the operating theatre. They’ve also shown that this exercise shrinks tumours, improves patients’ wellbeing and quality of life and aids recovery.

“I think it’s great Mike is doing this. SAFE is about getting the basic, critical things right for patients and, ultimately, that’s what our prehabilitation work is about – it’s as simple as making sure people are in the best possible shape before major surgery,” comments Professor Sandy Jack, lead for the prehabilitation studies at Southampton.

That work has grown through the WesFit Trial, which sees cancer surgery patients receive either exercise training, psychological support or both together. Designed to test the approach across with larger numbers of patients, WesFit started as a regional project but is now drawing in most of the UK.

“We’ve seen massive appetite from nearly all of the regional NHS Cancer Alliances, with Plymouth the latest site to join. What’s key is that we’re partnering with gyms to deliver the exercise sessions, and cancer charities for the psychological support – it’s closer to home, more accessible and more likely to lead to lifelong activity and wellbeing,” Professor Jack adds.

“Ultimately, we want to do the best for patients – whether that’s by improving care through research or by helping our colleagues overseas get the training they need,” adds Professor Grocott.

Donate today

Mike aims to raise £2,500 for SAFE and donations can be made through his fundraising page.

For more information on the to Association of Anaesthetists SAFE Africa campaign, click here.


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