Published on: 22 January 2020

A volunteer team led by staff from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust will leave later this month for the 15th annual mission to provide medical help and education to a community in one of the poorest areas of India.

The group of about 20, from NHS Trusts in the North East and outside the region and from the private sector, will include doctors, nurses and support staff. They will spend a week based at Walawalkar Hospital in Dervan on India’s West coast. While there, they will perform life-changing operations, with the specialities involved including urology, plastic surgery, orthopaedic surgery, eye surgery, general surgery, gynaecology, radiology and anaesthetics.

Biomedical engineering staff from South Tyneside District Hospital will support the clinical work of the doctors and nurses by repairing and maintaining Walawalkar's essential medical equipment. There will also be a strong focus on education and training in such fields as radiology, anaesthesia and intensive care.

The medical mission was the idea of Consultant Anaesthetist Dr Sanjay Deshpande. During a family holiday to India in 2005, Dr Deshpande, who works at South Tyneside District Hospital, witnessed the impressive dedication and commitment of the staff at Walawalkar Hospital, despite limited resources and challenging circumstances. Over the years, Dr Deshpande and his colleagues have changed thousands of lives for the better through everything from restoring sight, correcting facial deformities, carrying out hernia repairs and replacing joints.

Dr Deshpande added: “The effect we are able to have on people’s lives through what, in this country, are often considered relatively simple operations, is humbling and amazing. However, while the operations are the ‘quick wins’, education and training are equally as important. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that the staff of Walawalkar Hospital are fully equipped with the knowledge, skills and facilities to provide people in their local community with the healthcare they need and deserve.”

The annual trip is arranged through the SVJC Trust charity, with the volunteers giving their time for free. Dr Deshpande thanked SVJC trustees Dr Lance Cope and nursing sisters Shelley Quantrill and Eleanor Freeman for their commitment, describing them as ‘the backbone’ of the organisation.

Anyone interested in supporting the annual visit to India by making a contribution, or donating books, clothing and equipment, can contact Dr Deshpande on 0191 2024046. To find out more about the SVJC Trust go to