GIVING birth or routine surgery is frequently a life or death situation for patients in some of the world’s poorest countries.

But doctors in Southampton are launching a pioneering video library to train anaesthetists in the developing world.

The first of its kind in the world, the library contains 30 videos to teach beginners how to safely administer anaesthesia when an emergency arises.

It was initially set up to help medics working in Nepal, as part of University Hospital Southampton’s link with the country to boost skills, but now it has been used in hospitals across Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi.

Developed by the department of anaesthesia and the learning support team at the trust, the films include footage taken during procedures in Southampton, demonstrating spinal anaesthesia, intubation and Caesarean sections.

In Nepal, a shortage of qualified anaesthetists, particularly in rural areas outside the capital Kathmandu, means patients – predominantly women in labour – are vulnerable when an emergency arises.

Although the gap is currently filled by small numbers of isolated nurse anaesthetists, they are reliant on educational and clinical support.

The innovation is the brainchild of Dr Oliver Ross, a consultant anaesthetist at Southampton General Hospital and founder of Southampton Overseas Health and Medicine (SOHMED). It has proved so effective it has been incorporated into a wider international e-learning package by the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) and e-Learning for Healthcare.

Dr Ross said: “It really is credit to the dedicated and passionate clinicians working here in Southampton that we have created such a vital and respected support tool for anaesthetists in training across the world.

“For far too long, anaesthesia has been a neglected specialty worldwide and Nepal is an example of that, with a severe shortage of anaesthetists – 0.3 per 100,000 compared to 17 per 100,000 in the UK.”