Medical Ships: Revolutionising Access to Health Care Published: 19 Jun 2023

There are many isolated parts of the world where people live with little or no access to medical services. In response to this need, and in cooperation with local partners, our in-country medical programmes' ships work to deliver primary health care to some of the most vulnerable communities across the globe.

The Ships

There are three medical ships currently providing crucial support and consultations for the communities: these include the Amazon Hope 2, which set sail to the Peruvian Amazon in 2006, and the Jubilee Hope, a former Royal Navy Tender that was repurposed as a floating medical facility and commissioned by HRH The Princess Royal in 2014.

In 2015-16, the Vine Trust bought and fitted the Forth Hope as our first-ever new-build medical ship. This vessel set sail from Rosyth, Scotland to Iquitos, Peru in 2017.

The Itinerant Health Care Model

When it comes to providing a high-quality itinerant health care service to rural, isolated communities, a well-equipped medical ship is a unique and innovative method of provision.

Before going into greater depth on the singular benefits of the medical ship model, it’s useful to explain what “itinerant” means here in terms of health care and treatment.

An itinerant health care service, quite literally, is one that travels from place to place: this reflects the ships’ movement from community to community, whether it’s along the Peruvian Amazon or around the islands of Lake Victoria.

More specifically, the role of our in-country partners’ itinerant health care workers is a fascinating and crucial one: not only do they travel on-board the ships to provide medical care and support to those in rural, isolated communities, but they also work with local groups, leaders, and pre-existing social networks to implement stronger permanent health resources and support structures in these places.

Put simply, itinerant health care helps to:


Provide emergency help and medical consultations to those most in need,


To develop and bolster permanent care systems alongside community leaders.


For that reason, it’s a model of rural medical support that is effective in both the short and the long term.

It’s a model that understands the value of collaborating with existing community systems.

Most importantly, it’s a model that enables medical professionals to give care to wide sections of isolated, rural populations that would likely not be reached otherwise.


The Medical Ship: The Ideal Partner for Itinerant Health Care


The Amazon Hope 2, the Jubilee Hope, and the Forth Hope ships are effective and efficient facilitators for high-quality itinerant health care for a number of reasons:


They revolutionise accessibility


These ships greatly increase access opportunities for locals who are unable to travel to a suitable health care facility on land, instead bringing effective and impactful support directly to communities which would otherwise be too isolated.

Lack of infrastructure and health care facilities in rural parts of Tanzania and Peru means that ships are often the best (and sometimes only) forms of viable transport, enabling medical professionals to deliver skilled services to vulnerable people living around Lake Victoria and along the Peruvian Amazon.


They promote sustainable health care systems


Our in-country partners take great pride and care in running programmes (the Amazon Hope and Jubilee Hope Medical Programmes respectively) that conduct patient-focussed discussions, meetings, and support groups within the communities in these isolated parts of Peru and Tanzania.

These collaborative sessions open up a crucial and invaluable dialogue between the project health workers and community members: these are reciprocal relationships that not only allow the medical professionals to adapt their work to better suit the needs of patients, but also empower leaders to implement higher-quality care resources in their communities.


They’re safe and hygienic facilities


Each of the three medical ships is a safe and hygienic, sanitary facility that’s well-equipped with medical consultation areas, a dental clinic, a minor surgery room, a pharmacy, a laboratory, and accommodation for all in-country staff and Vine Trust volunteers.


They foster unique communities on-board


Our in-country partners employ a number of highly-trained medical workers that live on these ships whenever they are in operation throughout the year. When our medical volunteers head out to join the Tanzanian and Peruvian teams throughout the year, they live on the ships alongside the in-country professionals.

This live, sleep and work situation helps to foster uniquely strong bonds and connections between all those on board. Medical students in their final year can work alongside and learn from doctors, GPs, nurses, dentists, and midwives: this integrative and versatile workforce also creates an environment where everyone is always discovering something new.

"Having a multi-disciplinary team on board is great, all the staff share and learn from one another which is important in an environment like this. Something I didn’t expect was the laughter on this boat, there has been a massive amount of laughter. For me, having students on the boat has been great, I love to teach and think it is an incredible place to learn."

Dr Kathy McAdam


2023 Onwards…


For over 20 years, the Amazon Hope Programme’s vessels have combined to help our medical volunteers and partner’s in-country staff conduct more than two million consultations in one of the most isolated areas of the world.

The Jubilee Hope Medical Programme is a collaboration between Vine Trust and Africa Inland Church Tanzania (AICT) which has been working with the island communities of the Muleba District in the Kagera region of Tanzania since 2015. In that time, the project’s medical workers have held nearly 400,000 consultations with some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in the world.

We believe that the joint itinerant and ship model of medical support is an intuitive, innovative, and uniquely effective way to revolutionise health care access and empower isolated communities to implement longer-term strategies for the future.


Relevant Links:


Eslabão Adriane Domingues et. al “Object and technologies in the working process of an itinerant team in mental health.”

Isely RB, Sanwogou LL, “The itinerant health worker: an experiment in rural health care delivery.”

“Medical Services.”