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  The Times of India, Feb. 14, 2004  




UK prescribes India for health treatments

By Prasun Sonwalkar


London: Enterprising tour operators here 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 recovering on the sylvan beaches of Goa or with visits to peaceful temples in the southern India.
   Patients in Britain often face lengthy waiting periods to get treatment on the National Health Service (NHS)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 a 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 stairs to ease the pressure on his joints. He was appalled when he was told 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. Ive worked all my life and paid my taxes all that time. Ive never asked for anything back, Mr C a m p b e l l said. But the first time I did I was forced to leave this country and go elsewhere. Its a damning indictment of our health service.  
   Campbell thought about having the surgery privately but could not afford the 20,000-pound bill.
   He picked the Krishna Heart Institute in Gujarat from the Internet for his treatment, which cost 8,000 pounds. The newly-formed Medical Tourism Council of Maharashtra is at the forefront of this the initiative to secure health tourism business from the West, and offer Indian hospitals as a cheaper, quality alternative to a long wait on the NHS.
   Doctors estimate that heart surgery costs an average 30,000 pounds in the private sector in Britain, but only 6,000 pounds 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 and other places in India and taken care of. Cox and Kings, an upmarket specialist travel company, and Taj Hotels, also plan to launch packages with the backing of the Maharashtra tourism and health ministries.


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