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GrandmotherHow it all Started...

In June 2002, Dr Jagdish Jethwa's 96-year-old grandmother Santokben C Jethwa, broke her hip. She hadn't fallen or bumped herself, the break occurred simply as she walked around her home, an unfortunate consequence of ageing and osteoporosis. Maa, as her family affectionately called her, was taken to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, England and her family was told she needed an urgent operation. Every hour - of every single day she was in hospital was painfully intolerable - for all concerned. Each rising day the family could do no more than simply pray and hope that the surgeons would operate soon. Despite the "urgency" of the surgery it was eight days before the frail old lady, who spoke little English, went under the knife for a major hip operation where the surgeons braced the broken joint with steel pins and plates. Eight days of excruciating pain dulled by large doses of morphine.

Jagdish, who was born in Kenya, and educated in Loughborough, Durham and London before work brought him to Coventry, was thankful she finally received attention but wondered if there was a better or faster way. The 41-year-old who has a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, from Imperial College said: "We were all very worried about Maa while she was waiting for the surgery, she was in so much pain. "It got to the point where I was ringing private hospitals all throughout the UK not just locally but I could not get through to any consultants, I would only get as far as their secretaries who would say something like "could you bring her in a week on Tuesday". "I even resorted to contacting hospitals in India where the response was more favourable, they could do the surgery the next day but, of course, with her fractured hip it would have been virtually impossible to have gotten her there. The family were relieved that their prayers were finally answered and very thankful to the Surgeons and the rest of the hospital staff.

"When Maa did have her operation the doctors did an excellent job and she lived happily for another two years, but it made me realise even though hospitals were working flat out, there were still many patients waiting in agony for days for what was considered urgent surgery." For those, whose surgery was classed as "non-urgent" had even longer waits - in some cases up to a year. Jadgish, who designs and develops automotive airbag systems together with his wife, Dipa, a Bio-Medical Sciences Graduate began to think they might be able to offer an alternative. They already knew from contacting India about Maa's situation that orthopaedic procedures there could be carried out quickly and at a fraction of the price of a private hospital here.

The supply was obviously available but was there a demand? Travelling thousands of miles for complex medical interventions might be a daunting prospect, however desperate you were for surgery. Organising travel, arranging appointments and hospital stays, ensuring appropriate aftercare. It was a lot to sort out and though it could be done given patience and persistence there was still the issue of having confidence in those plans. Jagdish and Dipa realised if they could take on all the logistical intricacies and team up with the right consultants and hospitals in India all the patient had to do was get on the flight, have the operation and get better. They would have to pay for the privilege, of course, but it wouldn't be anywhere close to the cost of home-grown private treatment. "We thought we could offer a sort of third option to people needing surgery or procedures," said Jagdish. "The first two options are that people have to wait for however long it takes on the NHS or raise a lot of money and pay for private care. "We would provide a halfway house. People do have to pay for the operation but it's a fraction of the cost they would have to pay here." And the price tags certainly are attractive. A knee operation here can cost upwards of 10,000, in India it's nearer 4,000. A cardiac bypass might mean a 10-month wait on an NHS list here or set you back between 14,000 and 17,000 but in India it's about 6,800 with the promise of immediate action.

Through their extensive research, Jagdish and Dipa formed excellent links with many surgeons, doctors and anaesthetists in New Dehli, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Baroda, Chennai, to name a few, where a high quality of care is offered immediately at substantial cost savings. It's cheaper because the cost of living in India is so much lower than our own. Wages are significantly less and manufacturers sell their equipment for less, but still at a profit.

Despite the bargain basement prices Jagdish and Dipa have found standards in private Indian hospitals are at least as good if not better than our own NHS hospitals. The Taj choice of hospitals use the latest life saving technologies, the very best prosthesis - for example, PFC Sigma from Johnson and Johnson (USA) and Operating Theatres with Laminar Air Flow Systems, which compares with the best in the USA and the UK. AT the moment there is a three-hour travel limit on NHS referred patients which obviously eliminates the 10 to 12-hour plane journey to India. If patients want to travel of their own accord the NHS believes it's up to them but urges people to make rigorous checks on the proposed hospital and surgeon. The Taj Medical Group carry out extensive checks and routinely consults with their Hospital Directors in improving and maintaining very high standards in terms of procedures, health, hygiene, food, accommodation and aftercare. All of the Taj Doctors and Consultants are vetted and their credentials checked and verified. The Taj ensure they all have had extensive training and experience from working in the USA and/or UK (either NHS or Private sectors). Dr Keith Williams, director of public health for Coventry Teaching Primary Care Trust, said: "If people chose to go private for medical treatment that is entirely their individual choice whether that be in the UK or abroad.

"If anything went wrong during their treatment or recovery and returned home presenting to a GP or accident and emergency department then the NHS has a duty to provide the necessary treatment no matter what the cause of the problem. "If anyone was looking to go abroad for treatment of any kind they should make sure that it's in a place where there are proper standards of audit and clinical governance."

The Taj Medical Group - Holding your hand all the way...

Extracts from Jagdish & Dipa Jethwa's Interview with Karen Hambridge, Senior Features Editor, Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Jump NHS waiting lists with treatment in India.
Published March 10 2006
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