Miss England Feels a 'Moral Duty' to Help Fight COVID-19 

Siobhan Harris

Disclosures

April 08, 2020

Junior NHS doctor and reigning Miss England, Bhasha Mukherjee, is returning to work to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The 24-year-old, who won the 2019 pageant crown, had been taking a sabbatical from her medical career to carry out charity work around the world as part of her Miss England role.

She was in India when the pandemic got worse. She cut short her trip and returned to the UK to rejoin her colleagues at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, where she'd been working as a junior doctor specialising in respiratory medicine before winning the Miss England title in December.

She's been telling Medscape UK via email about her decision and current situation.

Q&A

Why did you decide to return to your work as an NHS doctor?

It felt like a moral duty. It's how so many young boys during the World Wars felt, a sense of pride to go out to war and serve their country. I felt there’s no time better than now to serve my country, England, as Miss England and that too at the front line.

Have you heard from your colleagues at Pilgrim Hospital recently about the situation they are facing?

The situation is ever-changing and scary. My hospital is limiting antibiotics usage as the pharmacy has already run out of some of the main ones. It baffles me and feels like a dream at how quickly things have escalated. I can't believe I'm sitting in a developed country, in the 21st century discussing the prospects of what to do when we run out of drugs to treat patients at the hospital.

You are in self-isolation after returning to the UK when can you return to work?

I informed work last week of my arrival and got told I'd have to monitor for symptoms for 14 days. This week I've been told a different story - as long as I'm symptom-free there’s no point wasting 14 days, so they’re going to get me on board asap. I'm just waiting to be enrolled onto the system, have my payroll, and other boring admin sorted before I can start officially.

Was it difficult for you getting back to the UK?

It was easy and difficult. The lockdown in India became a very unpredictable, scary time for foreign nationals with many being kicked out of hotels and facing mob violence. There was no knowing when I'd be able to get out. In fact, it’s coming up to 3 weeks of my own mum still being stranded in India. She still doesn’t know if and when her scheduled rescue flight will depart.

As for me, I, being Miss England, got the help of the media to highlight my predicament. This got seen by the British Embassy, who then were very prompt to get me help to get home within 8 days of lockdown.

I understand you were taking a career break to be an ambassador for a number of charities. What were you doing and planning to do and where?

I was invited to Africa and Turkey between December and January and then I was booked to do a multi-country humanitarian trip around south Asia. All these trips were sponsored by various entities as an invitation to support and promote various charitable causes.

My India and Pakistan trip tickets were booked by the Coventry Mercia Lions Clubs (India) and the founder of Wasupme.com (World Against Single Use Plastic campaign) Professor Gatrad from Walsall hospital who asked me to spread their messages during my trip.

I was invited to attend five different states in India to visit rural and deprived communities, where charity events were held with me attending some as a guest of honour. All these endeavours helped raised funds and awareness for these various causes like free cataract surgeries for the poor, homes for abandoned and disabled children etc. Before I left I became an ambassador for Plastfree Sanitary Pads, (plastic free sanitary pad) I was promoting their product to help spread the word.

Pakistan was to be similar, except there I was also supposed to be attending with a medical team, to volunteer with them in performing cleft lip surgeries.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Gibraltar and many more countries were also on the cards. Sadly however, we had to put an end to these trips after my India visit due to COVID-19.

How do you feel about the current situation? Are you nervous of what you are likely to be facing or ready to do what you are trained for?

It's only normal to be nervous because none of us, not even the biggest of consultants, trained for COVID-19 and the way it's bowled health care systems world over.

My main concerns are the working conditions. There'll be added pressures and responsibility on inexperienced, exhausted juniors, pair that with a resource-poor setting and fragile patients and you have the potential for causing harm rather than good to patients. My worry is more about being able to withstand the pressures, and being able to still make the right decisions and carry out tasks with minimal errors.

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