Commonwealth Professional Fellows at the East London NHS Foundation TrustThe East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) has hosted a number of Professional Fellows through the organisation’s involvement in the Butabika Link – a partnership between the ELFT and Butabika Mental Health Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.

The Butabika Link is aimed at building the capacity of an under-resourced Ugandan mental health service to assist its people, while giving ELFT staff an opportunity to develop professionally. This happens through visits of Ugandan staff to London to receive experience and training, as well as ELFT staff going to Uganda to lead focused training and service development, sponsoring projects, and sharing resources.

ELFT’s Cerdic Hall explains: ‘The Link was officially started in September 2004, and in 2006 and 2007 we were successful in applying for Commonwealth Professional Fellowships for six Ugandan nurses.

‘These nurses stayed for three to six months and were placed within Community, Child and Adolescent, Inpatient, Psychotrauma and Forensic Services, where they received support and experience alongside ELFT staff. In 2008 and 2009, a further six nursing and medical professionals came to spend time with ELFT on Professional Fellowships.

‘The benefits of the Link are many and occur at individual, institutional, and national levels. For our Ugandan colleagues, benefits to staff include increased knowledge, skills, and expertise on a range of specialist areas, knowledge of alternative methods of working with mental health problems, the development of new protocols and services, and increased cultural awareness. The consequent impact on patient care can be found with staff spending more time with service users, utilising more skills, and offering a greater range of services.

For ELFT staff, the opportunity to be involved in the Link leads to greater confidence, improved teamwork, greater adaptability, the promotion of innovation, and improved cultural awareness. On a broader level, the Link is a powerful staff retention tool that also demonstrates the Trust’s interest in its broader social responsibilities.