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KSA-UK collaboration in pediatric medicine boosted

Saudi Arabia, October 10, 2018

RIYADH — Dr. Peter Steer, chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in London, arrived in Riyadh to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC).

Speaking to Saudi Gazette in an exclusive interview, Steer said the agreement would become the basis and platform for collaboration between GOSH and KFSH&RC.

“Both parties are highly committed to specialist care and treating complex and rare diseases. We plan to work together toward clinical excellence, education and research,” he said.

“The MOU comes as the first formal and international agreement we have. We are very pleased to have this agreement with such a prestigious institution,” he added.

On the international healthcare collaboration between the Kingdom and the UK, Steer said in terms of highly specialist care, people could not stay isolated.

“Collaborative engagement across the world is essential for the benefit of patients and for discovery to translate new research into treatment progress particularly in the more specialized areas and rare diseases. Working together is most important because very few of us have many patients with these rare diseases. KFSH&RC has a great history of outreach and education programs with many other institutions in the UK. It is great to build on that history of outreach,” Steer said.

“We hope this collaboration and relationship with KFSH&RC will last a long time. The first specialist thing to share is clinical education. In areas such as cardiology, radiology, gastroenterology and so on, there is a suite of 10 streams within the children’s program here where collaboration is possible. Initially the collaboration would be on very rare and difficult cases that investigations and data could be discussed and shared by teleconferencing, videoconferencing and virtual meetings of clinicians to brainstorm and talk about the best options for these complex cases. Pooling that collective intelligence is critical.”

He said the second thing that becomes quite important is visiting exchanges, both ways. Expertise from KFSH&RC can be shared in GOSH and vice versa.

“Also, we are keen to build our relationship with education as we have a very significant education program across all our sub-specialties at GOSH and we would like to make this available to Saudi specialists who would like to train further in London. Visiting professorships, both ways, is also another area for focus. In KSA, one of the rare conditions is a rare problem with children’s bone development. We happen to have one of the world experts in this area,” said Dr. Steer.

“The final thing that we can learn from each other is that we are all passionate about patient experience. It is not just about the best outcome, but also how we can ensure the experience of care is as good as possible,” he added.

On patients and families with kids who have serious diseases, Dr. Steer explained that KFSH&RC is very self-sufficient and do a lot of enormously complex work, as well as an enormous amount of transplant work in children and adults. There are still a few patients that may be sent overseas, for example to GOSH in London.

“We would see over time, our capacity to decrease that further to shorten the length of time families need to stay abroad which is better for the child and the family.

It is important that people across specialties and hospitals know each other as this facilitates trust, confidence and communication,” the British expert said.

On healthcare research in KSA, especially in pediatrics Dr. Steer sees that there is a real commitment to research at KFSH&RC and at GOSH. He said GOSH has been doing research in pediatrics since 1852 and they can share their expertise and experience.

“There are some areas, such as gene therapy, where our specialists are doing world-first discovery and treatment that we would like to see translated and made available here. On top of that highly specialized care, there is also opportunity for collaborative research as well through sharing studies and patients,” Dr. Steer said.

Commenting on the rare diseases in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Steer explained that rare diseases occur everywhere but the frequency is quite different and most diseases happen in every population but some diseases happen more in Asian populations, compared to Caucasian populations. For example, 7 percent of the population in the UK suffers from a rare disease.

On GOSH’s future plans in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Steer said, “GOSH is the center of referral for all of the difficult, complex, rare diseases for children in the UK; in that it is similar to KFSH&RC for children in Saudi Arabia.

“Separate from the MoU, from an education point of view, we are offering the GOSH international fellowship program, which is available to Saudi consultants from across all hospitals in KSA. Also, all conferences and meetings we plan to hold together would be open to all from KSA too.”

Collaborative engagement across the world is essential for the benefit of patients and for discovery to translate new research into treatment progress particularly in the more specialized areas and rare diseases.

Dr. Peter Steer

CEO, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London

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