A stroke consultant from the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust is hoping to help set up the first stroke unit in Sudan.

Frances Harrington, who is based at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, visited the country earlier this year with Sudanese colleague Amir Abdalla to speak at a national conference about stroke treatment, dementia and the lack of services for the elderly and frail in the African country.

Frances said: “Amir used to work with me as a registrar prior to taking up a consultant post in Plymouth. We would often discuss the lack of specialist medical care for older people in Sudan compared to here and he suggested we go and speak at their National Association of Physicians Conference. So we did.

“In the UK there are 10 million people over the age of 65 and there are 1,400 geriatricians. In Sudan they have 1.8 million aged 65 and over and there are no geriatricians. With improvements in health and lifestyle, their elderly population is growing and the medical infrastructure to care for them is not there to support it. There are no training programmes either.”

During her first visit to the country in February, Frances spoke to gathered delegates about stroke thrombolysis and the service at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust as well as dementia. Amir then highlighted the lack of services currently in Sudan for older people. The pair then went on to visit hospitals and talk about research projects and opportunities for teaching and training.

Frances said: “The trip was really a fact finding mission. We were well received and our plan is to go out there again next year and develop undergraduate and/or postgraduate teaching. We are going to try and set up some small research projects around dementia as well.”

Frances’ main area of expertise is stroke and she discovered that despite stroke being very common in Sudan, there are no stroke physicians or stroke units.

She said: “The health care and targets have very much been aimed at reducing infectious diseases, infant mortality and maternal mortality but as that is improving there are more people living longer and so they need to start looking at eldercare issues. We are going to try and set up a stroke unit with Soba University Hospital.”

Hopefully helping Frances and Amir in this ambitious effort will be advanced stroke nurse practitioner Allyson James and stroke specialist occupational therapist Liz Tremayne. Both have said they are interested in providing practical teaching.

Frances said: “Ally and our stroke specialist speech therapist Penny O’Brien have set up a swallow training programme for nurses here at RCHT which has helped to reduce the rate of aspiration pneumonia. That’s an immediate thing we could teach which would have a big impact on outcomes out there because they don’t do that.”

It is hoped that in time an exchange programme can be created to share experiences and expertise between the two countries.