Birmingham experts join Indian medics to counter surgical infection threat

University of Birmingham experts joined medical professionals in India to lead work in improving care for surgical patients

University of Birmingham experts joined medical professionals in India to lead work in improving care for surgical patients.

Professor Dion Morton led the team of Birmingham academics hosting a key workshop in Delhi attended by representatives from the British High Commission, Indian Council of Medical Research, Union Health Ministry, Government of Punjab Department of Health.

The National Institute for Health Research Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery (NIHR GHRU) team held the event in Delhi – also welcoming representatives from its first surgical Research Hub at Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMC), Ludhiana.

An important stage in building progress towards establishing an independent and sustainable network of research ‘hubs’ and trial centre – the workshop is part of a major programme to help develop surgical research that could improve the quality of surgery.

NIHR GHRU Co-director, Professor Morton, from the University of Birmingham, commented: “Each year, 4.2 million people die within 30 days of an operation, half of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries such as India. Surgical Site Infection (SSI) is the most common surgical complication and this workshop represents an important step forward in reducing SSI in India and other countries.

“SSI can have a catastrophic impact on patients in India, driving many people into poverty as they struggle to work and pay healthcare bills. Reducing SSI has huge benefits as patients suffer less and save money, while being able to return to work or school faster.

“Patients also need fewer and shorter courses of antibiotics, helping to reduce global antimicrobial resistance, whilst hospitals can reduce costs and discharge patients earlier, preventing re-admissions.”

During the Birmingham team’s three-day visit to India, Professor Morton also met Professor Balram Bhargava, Director-General, Indian Council of Medical Research and Secretary, Department of Health Research, Government of India to discuss the project. He also met Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, as well as representatives of the State of Punjab where the India Hub is located.

The workshop was supported by the University of Birmingham’s India Institute – its Country Director Dipankar Chakraborty commented: “The India Institute aims to bring Birmingham and India closer together to deliver impactful research, create innovative education initiatives and extend our influence across the globe. We are delighted to support the NIHR GHRU team in progessing research which could save many lives in India and beyond.”

Launched with partners from low and middle income countries, Universities of Edinburgh and Warwick, the NIHR GHRU Unit aims to establish hubs and/or trial centres in India and other partner countries that will perform their own clinical research relevant to local populations, while serving global needs.

Research Hub Lead Dr Dhruv Ghosh commented: “There is a critical need to improve surgical infrastructure across India and beyond in order to improve patient care and reduce the devastating impact of a lack of surgical care. We are delighted to link with our partners at the University of Birmingham in this latest stage of a global health research initiative that has the potential to save many thousands of lives in India.”

The Unit is based at the University of Birmingham and co-directed by Professor Morton, Barling Chair of Surgery at the University’s Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, and Professor Peter Brocklehurst, Director of the Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit.

Sarah Fallon, Head of Science & Innovation, British High Commission New Delhi, said: “this initiative has the potential to save many lives – not just in India but in countries around the world. Launching this exciting new research partnership, focused on Surgical Site Infection, is a brilliant example of how we can bring the brightest minds in India and the UK together to tackle the global challenge of post-surgical complications.”

Partners in the Unit have also formed a Policy and Implementation Consortium to work with professional associations, NGOs and government organisations across the world, including the World Health Organization. This Consortium will use the results from the research generated by the Unit as a tool to inform changes in clinical practise and provide evidence to drive policy changes across the globe.

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