PHASE Worldwide has developed a short-term volunteer programme for experienced GPs and midwives to participate in teaching, mentoring, and supporting staff who work in remote health posts in Nepal. Since 2009, over 150 GPs have been to Nepal with around 30% of GPs returning for a second time.
Our volunteer programme is designed in a way that is beneficial to both Nepali and UK health workers. The programme gives short-term volunteers an opportunity to experience life and healthcare in Nepal whilst helping to improve the primary care service in some of the poorest communities in the world.
GPs visit remote rural health centres for around one week, living and working with the local health workers who work in professional isolation. GPs are carefully briefed before their visit and given as much information as possible about what to expect, and what is expected of them.
The focus of the GP placement is not on treating patients but on teaching generic primary care skills and therefore ensuring sustainable development. It is a priority to reinforce good practice and not to undermine the patients’ confidence in the local health worker.
Am I eligible to volunteer?
Are you a British GP?
Have you got more than two years’ experience of NHS general practice since completing your medical degree?
Are you included on an NHS performers’ list?
Are you physically fit enough to walk for at least three hours?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all four of these questions, then you are qualified to volunteer with PHASE Worldwide. If you answered ‘no’ for any of them, then you may not be eligible. If you have any questions regarding eligibility, please contact PHASE Worldwide through firstname.lastname@example.org.
When do you send volunteers out?
We try to avoid the wet season (June to Sept) as rain can often disrupt transportation links. GP Volunteers generally complete their placements between November and March, sometimes also in September or May. In October and April our health workers are usually in Kathmandu for training. Some volunteers get involved in this, too.
Do I need a Visa?
You will need a Visa. Visas are available to buy on arrival. The process is straightforward, but it helps to pre-fill the application form online https://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/ – the kiosks in the arrivals hall also work OK.
It may be a good idea to bring with you a passport photo, however generally the visa kiosks in the arrivals halls take the picture for you.
You should pay in dollars (but they accept £) and ideally with the exact amount as change will not always be available.
Bought at the airport, a 15-day visa costs $25 (£19) and a 30-day visa costs $40 (£31).
You can avoid all of this trouble by purchasing a visa from the Nepali Embassy in your home country. A 15-day Visa costs £20 whilst a 30-day visa costs £35.
What happens when I arrive?
Once you have bought your visa and gone through Customs, you will be able to leave the airport. Depending on what arrangement has been confirmed before your trip, you can get a pre-paid taxi to your hotel (they accept USD, but you can also chage a small amount of cash at the airport), or the hotel may arrange pick up, or sometimes PHASE will do so. If hotel or PHASE pick up has been arranged, just outside the main exit there will be someone holding a card with either the name of the hotel, your name or “PHASE” written on it. They will take you to where you need to go.
Where do I stay for the first few nights?
You will usually stay in Kathmandu for the first two nights before starting the journey to your placement. Generally, you will visit the PHASE office on the day after your arrival.
Your accommodation in Kathmandu will be decided beforehand. You will have a choice to stay in any of the following locations:
Thamel: contains many hostels and hotels (around an hour away from the PHASE office and half an hour from the airport by car), most of which can be booked online.
Bhaktapur: A historic city located close to the PHASE Nepal offices. There are a number of reasonable choices of hotels here. The Bhaktapur Guest House offers discounted rates to volunteers (around half an hour away from the airport by car and 10-15 minutes from the PHASE office))
Homestay: PHASE can arrange for you to stay with the family of a staff member close by the office in Thimi (around 20 minutes away from the airport by car)
Some volunteers, often those who have volunteered with us before, chose to book their own hotel in Kathmandu before finding their own way to the PHASE Nepal offices.
Where will I be volunteering?
In general, this is decided around 4 weeks before your placement. We try to send our GPs to where they are needed most, but other considerations also factor into the decision making, such as logistics and the volunteer’s prior experience. Occasionally, we have to re-arrange at short notice, but we will always keep you informed of this.
We will often send new volunteers to our least remote health posts. Experienced volunteers will have the option to venture out to the far-west of Nepal and work in some of the most remote communities in the world.
Your placement location is also determined by your physical fitness, as it is sometimes required that you hike for several days in order to reach certain health posts.
How much will I have to pay?
There is no placement fee. You do not need to pay us to volunteer in Nepal.
You need to pay for your flights to and from Nepal. The price of these varies depending on the time of year you are travelling, where you are travelling from and how early you buy your tickets.
You need to pay for accommodation in Kathmandu, generally 2 nights before and 2-3 nights after your placements. Hotel prices range from £ 15 to £ 150, depending on the hotel. The home stay costs around £ 10-15 per night.
For those placements in more remote areas, you may also need to pay for domestic flights. – These can be quite expensive, adding up to £ 500 to the cost of your visit.
In addition, for more remote areas you may need a porter / local guide to walk with you to the health post and back, which costs around £ 10 – 15 per day and can be up to 6-7 days in some areas. In some places, you may be able to hire a jeep to take you nearer to the location, which may cost an additional £ 30 – 60.
You will need to pay for food and accommodation whilst on placement, but these are minimal (around £ 2-3 per night).
Do I need travel insurance?
You are covered by the PHASE insurance for the time you spend volunteering with us but if you plan to holiday before/after you will not be covered for that.
Do I need to be a registered GP?
In general, we are looking for experienced GPs, ideally with GP training experience. We make the assumption that GMC registration and annual appraisal are reasonable guarantee that you are professionally sound.
If you have given up your license to practice and / or are not on a performers’ list anymore, this will not stop you from volunteering with PHASE in Nepal (you will not be providing clinical care), but we will then contact your professional references.
Should I try and coordinate my arrival with other GP Volunteers?
Yes, we like GPs to arrive on the same day, it saves us on pick up costs and it helps people to feel more comfortable. It also means that we can do your orientation at the same time.