The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UK patient sings praise of Indian cure
- Former police officer skips home health service for surgery in Chennai

London, July 9: After call centres, medical treatment could be the next big thing to be outsourced to India.

In what is no longer a rare phenomenon, an Englishwoman who could not wait for free National Health Service (NHS) treatment in the UK for an extremely painful shoulder injury is singing the praises of Indian doctors after a “cut price” operation at a hospital in Chennai.

Sarah Paris, 43, a former police officer from Torquay, Devon, decided to short-circuit waiting lists in Britain and flew to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai where the mother of two was charged £1,700.

Even assuming the hospital piled on extras on the bill considering she was a foreigner, she still happily reckons she has saved a huge amount when compared with the £10,000 fee she would have paid at home.

Doing unsolicited propaganda work for Indian doctors and hospital staff, she joked that the way she had been looked after made it “almost worth being ill”.

Unaware of the reality of life (or death) for ordinary Indians who have to put up with dire conditions in hospitals such as R.G. Kar in Calcutta, Paris enthused: “If you can’t afford private treatment here, this is a really affordable option.”

There are signs that the medical establishment in Britain is getting increasingly jittery about the rise of Indian medicine, especially in areas such as ayurveda. Prince Charles, who had led the campaign to have such practices labelled “complementary” rather than “alternative”, is viewed by die-hards as enemy number one.

For example, he was warned today that he has been “overstepping the mark” in his support for alternative therapies to treat cancer patients.

The leading breast-cancer expert, Professor Michael Baum, has written to Charles urging him to exercise “extreme caution” when promoting “unproven therapies”.

Baum questioned the scientific evidence to back up much complementary and alternative treatment. The pro-Indian lobby does not attempt to either challenge or replace Western medicine, but seeks to find a way to prevent people from contracting many diseases in the first place through a more “holistic” understanding of the body and mind.

Even in the field of yoga, a few Christian vicars have decided not to allow church halls to be used for lessons as they consider this Indian practice to be a sneaky way of introducing Indian spiritual and religious thought.

As for Paris, her problems began last October when she damaged her shoulder doing some DIY. For several months she paid for private physiotherapy before visiting her own NHS doctor at Easter when the pain became nearly intolerable.

She was told that it would take six to eight weeks to see an NHS physiotherapist, several more months before she could have an NHS assessment for surgery and a further nine months before the actual operation.

She discovered that in Britain private treatment would cost £10,000. European countries such as Spain, France and Germany were cheaper but India would be “a fraction of the price”.

Pakistani child Noor Fatima after her surgery in India

Bruised arm in sling, she got a friend to show her how to use the Internet, when she stumbled across the website of Apollo Hospital in Chennai.

“Ten days after sending an e-mail to the hospital, I was on the operating table,” she revealed.

“People think you’re knocking the NHS, but you’re doing the NHS a favour by going abroad and making a space available for more needy people,” she argued.

The government is willing to pay for some NHS operations to be carried out in France and other European countries. But India would come as a shock to the system, although a large medical delegation, sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry, visited London last year to tout for business.

Asked whether well-off doctors in India should not be more concerned with poor patients in India, a senior member of the delegation refused to answer and pointedly walked away.

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