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Published on August 22, 2012

NHS hospitals to expand abroad

Yesterday’s major headline focused on the UK Government’s proposal to encourage high-profile hospitals to set-up branches abroad, in the hope of benefitting patients back home.

The proposal comes at a time when England’s public health service is suffering from the effects of the recession, consequently causing a strain on healthcare across the country. With NHS workers losing their jobs and increasing waiting times, can this plan really benefit the British public?

The idea is for well-known hospitals such as Great Ormond Street, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Marsden to expand their services by setting-up private hospitals worldwide, offering care to foreign patients and exploiting the profits of this care by putting the money back into the NHS. Essentially, these hospitals will be extending their brand globally and delivering worldclass medicine, whilst also benefitting British patients.

A scheme already in place has been set-up by Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, which began in 2007 by building a unit in Dubai and currently generates a return of £500,000 a year for its UK hospital. Moorfields medical director Chris Canning said no taxpayers’ money had been spent on its Dubai venture and it had been in profit for the past three years while “raising the reputation and profile” of the NHS and the hospital, and making money to reinvest in UK health services.

How will the scheme work?

  • Healthcare UK will collaborate with British hospitals hoping to expand their services overseas
  • To set-up hospitals abroad, funding will be generated from private investment, meaning no NHS cash will be used
  • Any profits made from the worldwide hospitals will be invested back into British healthcare
  • Few hospitals will be eligible to join onto the scheme, only those with potential to expand their reputable brand
  • The scheme is only a minor programme within the total cost of running the NHS

So how will UK patients benefit?

Ultimately, the aim is for all profits generated abroad to be spent on improving NHS services and employing more staff to carry out these services.

David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations around England stated, “this is not about distorting what the NHS offers to UK citizens, this is about how we can exploit the brand of the NHS internationally”

However, the proposal has been criticised by the Patients Association, as Michael Watson, of the group explains their concerns:

“The key and only focus of an NHS hospital should be to provide treatment to patients on the NHS. We would be very concerned by any moves which would see commercial ventures, which are naturally going to be important for hospitals because they need to use them to raise revenue, would simply result in the attention of the hospitals being taken away from the core purpose – to treat patients in the UK and instead be focused on these hospitals abroad”.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this proposal – will the scheme benefit NHS patients in England or will the focus on the global market lose sight of patient care?

Comment below or tweet us @stockdalemartin

Have your say!

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