Thousands of Indian doctors on Friday began preparing to answer the UK government's call for recently retired medics to return to work and assist the over-burdened National Health Service (NHS) battling with the rapidly increasing cases of coronavirus which has claimed 144 lives across Britain.
The UK's Department for Health has started sending out formal letters to over 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales, asking them to return to the NHS to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
To further boost the ranks of our the NHS, we are now turning to people who have recently left the healthcare professions who can bring their experience and expertise to our health system. Your NHS needs you, said UK health secretary Matt Hancock.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the representative body for Indian-origin doctors in the UK, said it has already started receiving messages and calls of support from among its membership.
These are exceptional and extraordinary times and we are here to assist the health service as much as possible. We are advising our recently retired doctors to return to work, of course with the provision that if any of them are unwell or have a chronic illness they must follow the government advice and self isolate, said BAPIO President Dr Ramesh Mehta, who is himself self isolating.
The response we have had is very much that these professionals are keen to assist but there is some natural anxiety among family members of their exposure to such a deadly virus. Our hope is that they would not be deployed to the absolute frontline but be put in place as the second line of medical help within the NHS, he said.
The UK has an estimated 60,000 doctors of Indian-origin working within the state-funded NHS, often referred to as the backbone of the country's health service. Among the recently retired, at least a couple of thousand are likely to be of Indian-origin, with a further estimated 10,000 in long-term retirement who are also being rallied to assist in whatever capacity possible.
BAPIO expressed confidence in the government's pledge to prioritise NHS professionals in conducting tests for Covid-19 and welcomed the discovery of a new kind of do-it-yourself antibody testing kit likely to be made available soon, announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.
By offering to return to the NHS now, these thousands of well-qualified and compassionate people will make more of a difference than ever before not just to patients, but to colleagues and the wider community, said Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for the NHS.
Nurses are also being urged to consider a similar temporary return from retirement to help with the mounting pressure on UK hospitals.
As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is Your NHS Needs You', said Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer for England.
The UK's Department for Health said those who return will be assessed to see how they can best help the NHS fight the pandemic. Final-year medical students and student nurses could also be given temporary work to boost the ranks.
In the UK, 3,269 people have tested positive for Covid-19 as the country remains in a near lockdown situation, with strict social distancing rules being imposed.
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