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21.08.12

NHS brand to be exported abroad by Healthcare UK

Plans to export the NHS brand around the world are being considered by Government, it has emerged. Well-known hospitals such as Great Ormond Street and the Royal Marsden could set up branches overseas to boost income.

A new cross-government unit, Healthcare UK, would be set up combining the Department of Health and UK Trade and Investment, to act as a ‘matchmaking service’ between UK hospitals and foreign governments.

The move follows the success of major American brands establishing themselves abroad, and certain hospitals starting services outside the UK. Moorfields Eye Hospital runs an outpost in Dubai while Imperial has two successful diabetes centres in Abu Dhabi, and a group of GPs along with Virgin Care and Serco are bidding as a consortium for primary care services in the UAE.

All profits made abroad from the branches would have to go back into the UK and hospitals would partner with private companies to achieve the necessary capital and transfer financial risk.

Possible areas for expansion include the Gulf, China, Brazil, Libya and India.

Health minister Anne Milton said: “This is good news for NHS patients, who will get better services at their local hospital as a result of the work the NHS is doing abroad and the extra investment that will generate.

“This is also good news for the economy, which will benefit from the extra jobs and revenue created by our highly successful life sciences industries as they trade more across the globe.

“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.”

But the Patients Association has warned that the huge period of reform in the UK meant it was not a good time to consider expansion.

Chief executive Katherine Murphy told the Independent: “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 £20bn of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction. The priority of the Government, hospital trusts and clinicians should be NHS patients.”

The new push by ministers builds on the work already being done by NHS Global and NHS Institute Worldwide have been doing some similar things.

In NHE’s interview with Jim Easton, the National Director for Transformation on the NHS Commissioning Board, and an architect of QIPP, in our July/August 2012 edition, he noted the work the NHS Institute for Innovation & Improvement has been doing to spread its own work globally.

He told us: “Internationally the Institute is held in absolutely high regard and many of the other constituent parts [of the NHS] are approached by international groups. As we try to tackle the QIPP problem through this change, given that that’s an international challenge, there’s huge interest in what the NHS is learning and some opportunity for us to get value for the NHS by exporting that.”

But he added: “Our business is to support the NHS. The value in it will be ‘how does it support the NHS’, either in bringing in new knowledge, or by reputation gain, or frankly some income that we can re-use towards our R&D capacity to develop the NHS.”

To see the full interview, see the July/August edition of NHE: health professionals can subscribe for free at www.nationalhealthexecutive.com/Subscribe

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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