Coronavirus: Stranded NHS doctors ‘desperate’ to return home

Simon Tetlow Image copyright Tetlow family
Image caption Simon Tetlow and Rachael Bygate were travelling around New Zealand with two other doctors

Four NHS doctors who are stuck in New Zealand due to the coronavirus outbreak are “desperate” to return home to help their colleagues.

Simon Tetlow and his fiancée Rachael Bygate arrived in the country with two other doctors at the start of March but are currently unable to leave.

Dr Tetlow said they were finding it “really painful” not being able to help the “dire” situation in the UK.

The government said it was “working to support British travellers”.

With New Zealand currently in lockdown, the junior doctors are in isolation in an AirBnB in Christchurch.

Image copyright Tetlow family
Image caption Dr Tetlow works in the intensive care unit in Woolwich’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Dr Tetlow, who is based in the intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, told the BBC they were in touch with some 20 other UK doctors who are in the country and also keen to return home.

He said colleagues in the UK “have been telling us stories of people who are stretched beyond belief, of a lack of resources, of people starting to burn out, starting to struggle, starting to break down emotionally”.

“We know that this…will be the greatest challenge our health service will ever face, and to not be able to join in that struggle is really, really difficult.”

The group have had two sets of flights cancelled so far but have booked to return home via Vancouver on 1 April and “really hope that this one might go ahead”.

Dr Tetlow’s mother Carolyn has urged the government to help bring the doctors home because “as a country we need them back here in the UK”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said they were “working around the clock to support British travellers in this situation to allow them to come back to the UK”.

“The government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.”