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Liverpool doctor’s invention set to save lives in Uganda

LIFE-SAVING: James Ditai of the Sanyu Africa Research Unit, left, and Prof Andrew Weeks

HUNDREDS OF thousands of babies’ lives could be saved in developing countries each year thanks to a ‘game-changing’ invention by a Liverpool-based doctor.

The BabySaver, developed by consultant obstetrician Professor Andrew Weeks, who works at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Liverpool, is a simple plastic unit where babies can be resuscitated without having to separate them from their mothers.

It was officially launched in Uganda recently when it was handed over to the World Health Organisation’s Uganda representative, Dr Olive Sentumbwe.

The product has been developed in conjunction with Peter Watt, a design engineer at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, after trials with staff and patients at the Mbale Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH) in Uganda.

It costs under £40 – a fraction of the price of traditional resuscitation units – and the aim is that it will be rolled out to every hospital in Uganda, and then more widely.

Professor Weeks said: “Each year approximately six million babies across the world re- quire basic neonatal resuscitation and around 900,000 of these will die. The vast majority of deaths occur in low-income settings where there are few facilities for newborn resuscitation at birth.”

Typically, resuscitation happens away from the mother, or even in another room, which can be very distressing for her and the child.

The ‘game-changing’ BabySaver, which includes a suction device and stethoscope, can be placed between a mother’s legs, enabling the umbilical cord to remain intact while doctors treat her baby.

“Studies of bedside newborn resuscitation carried out in Liverpool have shown that it is preferred by mothers and staff.

"We truly believe it will be a game-changer for families across Uganda, and hopefully even further afield,” added Professor Weeks.

Similar, more complex, devices are available in UK hospitals but can cost as much as £15,000. They also require electricity, which is often unavailable for the thousands of babies that are born at home in rural Uganda.

Dr Kathy Burgoine, head of the neonatal unit at MRRH, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Professor Weeks and his team with this project.

“The unit is literally a life-saver and will transform the way newborn resuscitation is carried out in our hospitals and the wider community.”

The project has been funded by Grand Challenges Canada, which funds innovative projects in low-income countries, and the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, a charity that supports social, medical and religious projects.

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