Gavin McColl


As trustee what is your role?

I developed the Community Health Worker training programme and continue to be passionate about how we develop this further. I’m also the safeguarding lead.

I’ve historically provided remote clinical supervision for doctors in Zambia. However, this role has reduced over the years as we have developed our team of past volunteers here in the UK.

What do you do when you are not supporting On Call Africa?

I’m a partner of one of the largest General Practice groups in the country, The Hurley Group.  Here I lead on two primary care sites in South East London – Lewisham and Peckham.

I’m also Primary Care Network Clinical Director in Southwark. PCNs are networks of General Practice clinics, community health providers and third sector organisations. They aim to improve health outcomes through a Population Health Management approach. One of the key priorities is to address health inequalities.

When I am not at work I spend my time with my growing family, ideally I’m finding green space in London for cycling and walking trips.

Why is On Call Africa important to you?

My passion in life is to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to capitalise on. I believe the most important aim for any government or non-governmental organisation is to achieve equitable access to healthcare. Being a doctor is an extreme privilege which comes with a responsibility to ensure the impact you can deliver is as wide as possible.

I helped to establish On Call Africa in response to recognising there was a ‘gap in the market’, for a health charity with a grass roots approach. Able to be responsive to local needs but with a professional set up and approach.

What is the future?

Going forward, I want to develop our UK volunteers to be better able to address our future strategic priorities of health system strengthening. I plan to work with the educational institutions such as the Royal Colleges to develop programmes that specifically address these needs.

One of the key areas of focus is to Increase the capacity of rural health systems, how will you go about this?

Train – support – grow Community Health Workers

Support Rural Health Centres capacity – identify issues such as supply of stock and be advocates for rural communities.

Continue to work to develop an appropriate incentive programme for Community Health Workers

Can you tell me about your mobile clinics and why they are so important?

This concept of taking quality healthcare to where there previously was no doctor is key to our origins. As we develop our organisation we recognise our impact can be greater by developing stronger links with higher levels of government offices. However, our founding principles were to be agile and responsive to the needs of local people. This close contact with local communities is key and provides our doctors with the invaluable experience of assessing and treating patients in these settings, close to people’s homes with very low resources. This experience develops our clinicians’ abilities to respond and develop solutions that are relevant to the challenges being faced at that time.

This is where a clinician will see the most direct benefit their training can ever possibly offer. Using only their knowledge and skill they can diagnose and treat conditions that would otherwise go left untreated, preventing life altering or life ending outcomes.

When did you last visit Zambia and do you have any recommendations?

Three years ago – I am dying to go back out once my children are a little older. It is a wonderful place with lovely people. For me South Luwanga National Park (in the North West of the country) is the most special place in the world and where I proposed to my wife. In Livingstone I’d often be late to a meeting due to elephants or giraffes on the road and there is the Mosi o Tunya national park that sits just on the outskirts of the town. Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe are all very easy to visit. Particularly special is Chobe National Park and the Okevanga Delta that is easily reached from the On Call Africa base in Livingstone. The town also has some lovely places to visit and a very relaxed and safe vibe. There is of course the Victoria Falls and one of my favourite ways to spend the afternoon is to take a short cycle to the lively Maramba market.

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