LONDON: Seeking funds for domestic health services, Britain is planning to set up profit-making branches of its prominent National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in India, where the private health sector is reported to be growing exponentially.
Keen to export the ‘NHS brand’, officials from the Department of Health and Department of Trade and Investment are setting up a new organisation – Healthcare UK – to export British standard health service to countries such as India, China, Brazil, Libya and the Gulf.This could take the form of joint venture hospitals in India or provide expertise and staff.
Officials hope that the NHS brand would get a slice of the growing private health sector in India, where many British patients travel for cheap health services.
There is already considerable overseas activity by prominent British hospitals such as the Moorfields Eye Hospital, which has established a unit in Dubai that makes around 500,000 pounds a year which is ploughed back into UK services.
The NHS featured prominently during the recent Olympics opening ceremony, which was watched worldwide.
In 2009, Great Ormond Street Hospital signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health in Kuwait, while Imperial College London has established the largest multi- disciplinary diabetes facility in the United Arab Emirates.
Officials say that Healthcare UK is “designed to bring about a step change in the exploitation of UK expertise in public and commercial healthcare sectors with countries across the world.”
Health Minister Anne Milton said the idea was good news for Britain’s economy: “The NHS has a world-class reputation and this exciting development will make the most of that to deliver real benefits for both patients and taxpayers.”
The move has attracted some criticism from those who believe that NHS should first focus on improving health service in the UK before entering into export arrangements.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The guiding principle of the NHS must be to ensure that outcomes and care for patients comes before profits.
“At a time of huge upheaval in the health service, when waiting times are rising and trusts are being asked to make 20 billion pounds of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction. The priority of the Government, hospital trusts and clinicians should be NHS patients.”