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Effective health delivery ultimately depends upon having sufficient and reliable medical equipment, however, studies published by The World Health Organisation claim that between 40% – 70% of all medical equipment in developing countries is currently out of use, either because it is inappropriate to local needs and experience, or because it is poorly maintained or broken.

In Europe the sale, resale, distribution and servicing of medical equipment is a relatively high-volume industry, whether you are in the public or the private healthcare sector. The array of brands and models available is staggering. However, in many countries the range of medical equipment available can be quite sparse and relatively expensive, especially in central African nations such as Uganda and Ethiopia. For such complex and generally fragile equipment it is often exposed to harsh environments, high quantities of atmospheric dust, rough handling from inexperienced staff, fluctuating power levels and the difficulty of obtaining spare parts.

Much of the medical equipment is donated and can already be old when put into service, therefore, the equipment often comes without any user manuals and the voltage required is often for a completely different region altogether. However, the foremost issue in the supply of lifesaving equipment is the severe shortage of appropriately trained personnel to maintain and repair it. Typically, a hospital or clinic in Uganda will only have a single technician with only basic electrical engineering skills.

With decades of experience of dealing with all aspects of Medical Equipment, Mike and Nicky Hilditch were looking for new ways to share their industry knowledge somewhere that would make a real difference to people’s lives. So they established the Amalthea Trust in 2006 with the specific aim; to improve medical engineering projects in developing countries, through training programmes and the provision of test equipment and workshop facilities.

The Trust started its work with Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda, to develop and deliver the country’s first University-based Diploma in Biomedical Engineering. The Amalthea Trust’s approach centres around the sharing of expertise and experience from Biomedical Engineers and Technicians volunteers from the UK’s National Health Service, and those in partner countries. After a two-week placement the volunteers are suitably equipped to be further placed in a specific program for their field of expertise.



Trust Volunteers are now a permanent fixture, teaching two six-week semesters over the two-year course, using a laboratory that the Trust fitted out for this very purpose on the University campus.

“The employment rate for the graduates of this now highly regarded Diploma course is almost 100%, and we are very proud to say that the course is currently held up as being the national standard for Biomedical Engineer training in Uganda.” Explains Martin Worster - Programme Director for the Trust.

Over the last three years the Amalthea Trust has expanded its influence and has included working with Tegbareid Technical College in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia.

“The Amalthea Trust’s ultimate aim is to remove the need for international Biomedical Engineering aid within developing countries by increasing the number of trained local engineers and technicians who can service and maintain their own nation’s medical equipment.” Concludes Martin.

All of this good work is only possible because of the support we get from our volunteers and sponsors, like Mike and Nicky Hilditch from the Hilditch Group. To find out more about how the Amalthea Trust improves health care in developing countries or if you are a health care professional and want to find out about volunteering opportunities, please visit the Amalthea Trust website:

So next time you are reading through the Total Scan Seconds or the Exposure Count of a CT scanner spare a thought for all the new students that are now able to learn how to maintain this essential lifesaving equipment.