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Can the UK's NHS learn from innovations in world’s poor regions?

An article in the BMJ on Lord Nigel Crisp's Reverse Innovation conference held in April featured Dr Matthew Harris, an academic clinical lecturer in the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College. In the article, Dr Harris noted the “effective” model of primary care support provided by Brazil’s lay “army” of 250 000 community health workers might be adapted for use in the UK. He also said the locally recruited workers had played a big role in Brazilian cities and rural areas, providing extensive support to households, such as sexual health, nutritional, and lifestyle advice and monitoring population health.

Dr Harris, who heads a collaboration that is planning to test the feasibility of such an approach for use in north Wales, said that implementing such “reverse innovation” could be a “game changer for the NHS” if successful. Dr Charles Alessi, who chairs the National Association of Primary Care and NHS Clinical Commissioners, said, “The north Wales experiment needs to become an English experiment.” Paul Farmer, a professor at Harvard University’s department of global health and social medicine, welcomed the idea, saying, “It’s a beautiful solution: an army of health workers with weapons of mass salvation.....”.

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