Assessment of need
Initial assessment of needs should be carried out with the members of staff from both institutions. Objectives in terms of research, service provision, management of resources, supply of learning materials and proposed visits need to be discussed and prioritised between leaders of the institution overseas and link members from the UK. This ensures that the expectations of both groups are similar. Any link should initially be small with limited goals that are achievable. This will give both partners confidence and provide the foundation upon which additional components can be established. Each link will develop at its own pace and each group must have an equal input, in the knowledge that imposition of Western priorities is inappropriate and likely to alienate the partners in the LMIC involved.
Communication to maintain the link
For any twinning venture to be durable, the key is communication. This should be by formal visits both to and from the developing centre concerned, and by remote communication between visits. The latter can be difficult because postal, telephone and computer links can be unreliable but regular contact is essential, particularly in the period after a visit. Ideally, e-mails or WhatApp messages should be exchanged regularly to assess the progress of both partners and to provide each with the relevant information and other support to ensure the visit has been a success for everyone. Good communications help to maintain momentum and strengthen longterm relationships.
Twinning is not designed to make an overseas institution dependent upon visits although such visits are a means to enable the institution to recognise its weaknesses and to identify methods to overcome them. Visits between hospitals or departments are a very effective tool, but, alone and without proper planning, can achieve little. When both groups have agreed who should visit and in which direction to proceed, clear objectives need to be set out for the visit:
- What is the purpose of the visit?
- How will the objectives be met?
- Who will be involved from each side?
- How long is the visit? (Shorter than one week is not acceptable as climatic, medical and cultural adjustments take time; an ideal visit would last for more than two weeks).
- These issues should be agreed in advance so that there is adequate preparation and so that each group has similar expectations.
The visit should then be followed up by a report that highlights:
- what was achieved in relation to the goals set for the visit.
- what was not achieved and why.
- unforeseen benefits/problems.
- plans and recommendations for the future.
- The report should be circulated to the relevant parties so that lessons can be learned and clear plans devised for the future.
Urolink is keen to encourage longitudinal relationships with visit centres, because they facilitate ongoing educational activity.
You are advised to visit the Urolink Publications & Social Media page for further useful information about setting up a link and sustaining it.