Preston nursing fighting to bring home 70 British front line medics stuck in Australia

A Preston nurse is campaigning to bring home 70 British front line medics - stuck in Australia - to help in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

By Laura Longworth
Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:00 pm
Kare Mclaughlin with her daughter Laura, an A&E nurse.
Kare Mclaughlin with her daughter Laura, an A&E nurse.

A&E nurse Laura Mclaughlin was due to fly home to the UK from Australia on Tuesday, changing flights at Singapore.

But the 28-year-old was forced to wait seven hours to see if she could get an alternative ticket when officials closed Singapore airport on Sunday, and both British Airways and KLM cancelled her flights.

The former All Hallows Catholic High School pupil was able to take an alternative route home on a Qantas flight that is only running until March 31. But with every seating being taken from now till then, some 70 British medics are stuck Down Under.

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Laura's mum, Karen Mclaughlin, said: "It's been a crazy and chaotic few days. It's all been very stressful and quite traumatic.

"I've felt awful and so stressed because they're closing borders all the time and you don't get any warning."

Laura has now brought her campaign to TV screens up and down the country, having appeared on ITV's This Morning on Wednesday, when she was interviewed by Phillip Schofield.

And it all began when she launched a Facebook group for stranded medics on Monday.

In less than a week, it went viral and was shared around numerous other online nursing communities.

There are also nearly 1,000 people on a sister support group for loved ones of medics stuck in Australia.

"When Laura heard about the lock-down, she wanted to come home to serve both the NHS and her country," said mum-of-three Karen.

"She's amazing. She's been determined to come home and give up her life in Australia so that she could help.

The 45-year-old added: "She'll need to self-isolate for two weeks before she is allowed back to work. That's why she wants to get home now, so that she's not isolating in the middle of the peak.

"They've already taken people out of retirement and the British medics who are stuck in Australia are all young and healthy. So you need them on the front lines.

"I've heard a million people are trying to get back home. But the health professionals should be a priority.

"Laura went into overdrive to get home and she won't give up on the people still over there. She's trying to keep the pressure up.

"They're stuck there because Qantas is only running this route until March 31 and all the seats are full. There are no other flights leaving Australia."

Laura has been one of the fortunate ones, adds Karen, as she managed to buy a £2,000 ticket in the nick of time last weekend when Qantas operated the first non-stop flight from Darwin to Heathrow.

After a 17-hour journey, she landed in London at around 6-30am on Thursday.

And while many travellers were left with no options at all, some airlines attempted to sell tickets for £12,000 each.

"People were being offered vouchers for flights, instead of their money back. It's ridiculous because you can't book on any flights," her mum said.

"The Government has released loans but there are no flights to buy, so they won't do any good.

"It needs to step in or ask Qantas to continue flying past the 31st."

Laura studied for her nursing degree at UCLan before working for the NHS, first at Royal Preston Hospital then Southport Hospital for five to six years. She then decided to go travelling and spent three years in Australia.

Karen added: "She has always wanted to be a nurse ever since, ever she was a kid. She's very good in a crisis and she's used to high pressure. The NHS needs her back."