Ministers to cash in on NHS brand overseas

Children take part in the NHS section of the Olympics opening ceremony
Children take part in the NHS section of the Olympics opening ceremony

By staff

Ministers are planning to cash in on the NHS brand after its Olympics advert by selling its expertise overseas.

The NHS featured prominently in the Olympics opening ceremony, generating praise around the world and controversy and confusion in the United States.

The government now hopes to use attention on the health service to generate
extra cash for existing healthcare services in Britain.

UK Trade and Investment and the Department of Health are setting up a new body, Healthcare UK, which will "bring about a step change in the exploitation of UK expertise in public and commercial healthcare sectors with countries across the world".

Consultancy services and the establishment of GP services and new hospitals in countries like China and India will be made available to overseas clients.

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.

"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."

Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy cautioned that the proposals risked the NHS' guiding principle that outcomes and care for patients come before profits, however.

"At a time of huge upheaval in the health service, when waiting times are rising and trusts are being asked to make £20 billion of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction," she warned.

Some British hospitals are already venturing out to the Middle East. Moorfields Eye hospital and Great Ormond Street hospital have set up branches, while a consortium of private care providers are bidding for a contract in the United Arab Emirates.

Healthcare UK, which will seek to provide support for this process and encourage its acceleration, is currently recruiting for a managing director. The successful candidate will earn a salary of around £100,000, plus "benefits".

The job advert states: "You will have an excellent understanding of the NHS and the UK private healthcare sector and what they have to offer internationally and will bring to this role the entrepreneurial flair, energy and drive to start-up and launch the new unit and to take full advantage of this rare opportunity to contribute significantly to the economic wellbeing of the UK."

Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said the government's priority needed to be "sorting out the mess it has created in our NHS".

"At a time when staff are losing their jobs and waiting times are rising, the government's priority should be sorting out the mess it has created in our NHS," he commented.

"Under David Cameron we're seeing a rampant commercialisation of the NHS. He needs to get a grip and start focusing on patients, not profits."


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