Shining India beckons
Enterprising tour operators here in England are designing an irresistible package for British patients: fly down to India for state-of-the-art treatment and then convalesce in the many splendours of incredible India.
Thomas Cook, a leading travel company that began operations from Leicester, is leading the way by offering surgery and treatment in Mumbai hospitals and then convalesce on the sylvan beaches of Goa or visit peaceful temples in the southern India.
Patients in Britain often face lengthy waiting periods to get treatment under the National Health Service (NHS), so much so many of them die waiting for their turn on the operation table.
Some enterprising people have gone to India and returned mightily satisfied and are encouraging others to take the first flight to Delhi or Mumbai for the state-of-the-art medical treatment.
Arthritic James Campbell preferred to go to India for a knee operation rather than face a two-year wait on the NHS. The 69-year old from Braemar, Aberdeenshire, was in so much pain he was forced to walk backwards down stair cases to ease the pressure on his joints.
He was appalled when he was told that he would have to wait two years just to get on the waiting list for surgery.
So he flew to India for the operation last October.
?I find it disgusting. I?ve worked all my life and paid my taxes all that time. I?ve never asked for anything back,? Campbell said. ?But the first time I did, I was forced to leave this country and go elsewhere. It'sa damning indictment of our health service.?
Campbell thought about having the surgery privately but could not afford to foot the ?20,000 bill.
He picked the Krishna Heart Institute in Gujarat from the Internet for his treatment, which cost him only ?8,000, and he has since returned to what he says is a ?new life? after receiving top treatment.
A large numbers of British Asians have been travelling to Mumbai and elsewhere for years for treatment, but industry experts believe that the potential is much greater.
The newly formed Medical Tourism Council of Maharashtra is at the forefront of this initiative to secure health tourism business from the West, and offer Indian hospitals as a cheaper and alternative to a long wait on the NHS.
Doctors estimate that heart surgery costs an average ?30,000 in the private sector in Britain, but costs only ?6,000 in Mumbai.
Under the new package, patients would be able to choose their doctor and hospital on a website in Britain and will be met at the airport on arrival in Mumbai or other places in India and taken care of.
Cox and Kings, an upmarket specialist travel company, and Taj Hotels also plans to launch packages with the backing of the Maharashtra tourism and health ministries.
A large-hearted Indian who owns a nursing home in Britain has presented the local council with an elephantine problem, literally.
Rao Kodali, the owner of a nursing home in Skegness, has a reputation for generosity. But his plan to donate an elephant to the seaside town to say thank you for its hospitality has left the local authority in a quandary and has alarmed animal protection groups.
He wants to give the town one of the finest elephants in India. He envisages spending ?10,000 to get it there and hopes it will become a tourist attraction.
Kodali, a native of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, arrived in Britain in the mid-1990s and moved to Skegness after an unhappy time in Blackburn.
?I was astonished at people'skindness. This is a gesture of my appreciation to the town. I have been treated so well here,? he said.
But the town council is believed to be worried about how it could house such a gift. It has received a letter from the Captive Animals Protection Society saying that elephants in captivity have to lead miserable lives.
But Kodali is not to be put off. ?I don'tactually know where it could be kept. They may need to sort this out quite a lot,? he said. ?I will leave that to them.?
A recovered British leprosy charity worker caring for women in the slums of Nagpur is to be honoured by the British Queen on March 8.
Leah Pattison, 31, from Frosterley in Weardale, County Durham, will be feted at a function at the Buckingham Palace to mark International Women'sDay on March 8.
Her invitation from the Queen caps an amazing eight years during which she lived and worked in the ghettos of Nagpur, caring for women deformed and stigmatised by leprosy.
She was afflicted by leprosy during her early days in India, but soon emerged as an example that leprosy can be cured.
Now a qualified paramedic, Pattison works with friend Usha Patil, dressing wounds, teaching basic hygiene and arranging medical treatments, including sight-saving operations. They have helped many of their patients set up small businesses such as teastalls and shops.
Financial support comes through the charity Start, which Pattison founded when she sold her possessions at a car boot sale. Start is now supported by schools, community groups and other organisations in Weardale and around Britain.
Her ultimate dream of opening a leprosy clinic is awaiting approval from the Indian authorities.
Pattison needs a licence to transfer funds from England to her Indian bank, which she hopes will come through in the next few weeks.
Pattison'smother, Sandee said: ?There are so many women and children who need help. Leah and Usha have just rescued two young sisters aged eight and 12, who were thrown out by their father after their mother died.
?The money in Start was given specifically for women with leprosy. Dealing with other issues would need a separate fund. The launch is an enormous honour. She sees it as the pinnacle of her achievements.? (The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected])