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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Queen Mary team awarded funding for research project to improve post-surgical outcomes in Africa

A team of Queen Mary and African researchers have successfully secured almost £3 million in funding for a new research programme led by Queen Mary’s Professor Rupert Pearse and Professor Bruce Biccard from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

African doctors


Funding for the project was awarded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). Working closely with academics and healthcare professionals in local hospitals, the programme aims to improve patient safety and outcomes in Africa, where more than 600,000 people die after surgery each year. This is twice the global average. Patients who survive also have a lowered life expectancy, poorer quality of life and financial hardship in dealing with the ongoing complications. The number of African patients who experience complications after surgery is significantly higher than the world average – with one in five on the continent dealing with issues such as sepsis and haemorrhage.

The funding was awarded in recognition that there is a need across the continent for a substantial increase in the number of surgeries to meet patients’ health needs. To prevent a subsequent rise in deaths after surgery, the team of researchers will work to develop solutions specifically, tailored to the needs of the various health systems, to support safe surgical care.

This will include creating centres of research excellence in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa, where a comprehensive research programme will be developed to help improve the safety and effectiveness of surgical care across Africa. Crucially these centres of excellence will also have a major role in supporting current African researchers interested in improving surgical care, combined with research training for the next generation of clinical academics. Three quarters of the overall budget will be spent in Africa to build more research capacity and capabilities across the continent with the aim that more research in Africa can be led by African clinicians.

Professor Rupert Pearse, NIHR Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at Queen Mary University of London said: “We hope that through this vital grant we will save many lives across Africa while improving people’s long-term health and reducing their financial strain after life-saving surgery.

“It’s clear that patients in Africa need far better post-surgical care than they currently receive. Through our research and working closely with the local health systems and those on the ground, we want to introduce safer and more effective practices, bring about the necessary policy changes, train future African researchers, and build on our existing work on the continent to save up to 300,000 lives each year.”

Professor Andrew Livingston, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen Mary University of London said: “We are delighted to be receiving this grant from the NIHR, which will allow Professor Pearse and his team to carry out truly impactful work.

“Global engagement is at the heart of our ambitious Strategy 2030, and we are always keen to use our research-based knowledge and innovation to improve outcomes for both individuals and societies in every corner of the globe. I will be following the results of this important project closely.”




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