UK GPs help raise £20,000 in 24 hours for oxygen in COVID-stricken India

UK doctors have raised £20,000 in the first 24 hours of a campaign to boost oxygen supplies in India in the face of a spiralling COVID-19 crisis.

Unloading oxygen cylinders for refill (Photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)
Unloading oxygen cylinders for refill (Photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)

The campaign led by the British International Doctors Association (BIDA), which has set a £100,000 fundraising target, will work with the British Asia Trust (BAT) to offer support and distribute equipment in India - complementing existing government and industry efforts.

One of the main ambitions of the group is to help rapidly procure as many ‘oxygen concentrators’ as possible for hospitals.

BIDA also plans to set up a triage service for patients affected by COVID-19 in selected cities in India, with UK GPs able to volunteer to offer telemedicine services.

Rising COVID-19 cases

A COVID-19 surge in India has seen infections soar, with some of the country’s hospitals running out of oxygen, beds, PPE and other essentials.

Cases of the virus peaked on Monday 26 April at 352,991, with the total number of cases so far in India reaching nearly 17m - although reports have suggested official figures may be a significant underestimate. Over 200,000 people in India are confirmed to have died from coronavirus.

BIDA national chairman Dr Chandra Kanneganti told GPonline that members wanted to be part of efforts to send aid to India after hearing ‘horror stories’ from family, friends and colleagues.

He said: ‘Every member knows somebody who has died. In my own family my mum had COVID-19 a week ago - luckily she pulled through. Now my sister and my brother-in-law are also struggling with it.

Oxygen supplies

‘We are very lucky to have the NHS, and people recognise that when you hear stories from other countries that don’t have enough oxygen supplies, medicines or ventilators.

‘The main issue here is the number of cases and how they have increased. I think the oxygen concentrators are very easy to supply. It only costs £350 for [one], so we want to collect and buy as many as we can and get it to the places that need them.’

A number of GPs have backed the campaign on Twitter, urging colleagues to offer support in the face of a growing humanitarian crisis in India.

Last week the BMA called for the UK government to take urgent, practical action to support and aid countries tackling a worsening COVID-19 crisis, including India.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘heart-breaking and difficult to comprehend’ the harrowing impact of the virus in India - stressing the government had a ‘moral obligation’ to help India and others.

‘Our thoughts are with the relatives of so many people who have lost loved one, as well as exhausted healthcare staff - who are working tirelessly in a healthcare system that has become overwhelmed with a lack of infrastructure and vital equipment in order to treat patients and save lives,’ he said.

The RCGP has said that it is ‘shocked and moved’ by the situation unfolding in the Indian subcontinent. A spokesperson said: 'Our thoughts are with our colleagues who are fighting the crisis on the frontline, as well as with our many members who have families and friends there.

Medical equipment

‘We stand in solidarity with the people of India and all those communities that continue to be devastated by COVID-19 across the world.’

The UK government announced this week that it would send more than 600 pieces of vital medical equipment to India to support the country in its fight against coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also stepped up its support for India recently, announcing it would provide oxygen and other essential supplies.

You can donate to the BIDA campaign here.

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