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NHS to be franchised around the globe under post-Brexit plans

This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/10/nhs-franchised-around-globe-post-brexit-plans/

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The NHS is to be exported across the world as part of efforts to boost investment in Britain post-Brexit, under controversial new Government plans.

Hospitals and heath watchdogs will be encouraged to set up franchises in dozens of countries, with profits ploughed into supporting the health service.

The NHS will be asked to target up to £7bn of opportunities a year over the next decade, in a bid to share expertise and increase investment in frontline services.

Officials hope to turn the UK’s national health service into a global brand, in the same way that the BBC gains significant income from its commercial BBC Worldwide arm.

In recent years, a handful of NHS trusts have set up franchises abroad. Specialist eye hospital Moorfields has branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation trust has set up mental health services in Abu Dhabi and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation trust is helping to develop hospital services in China.

Together, NHS organisations have won export business of more than £100m over the last two years. But ministers want to go much further – to increase overseas investment seventy-fold over the next decade.

Deborah Kobewka, managing director of Healthcare UK –  a joint initiative of the Department for International Trade, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England – said a major expansion of NHS healthcare overseas is now planned.

She told The Telegraph: “We feel the opportunities are quite untapped: there has been around £100m of NHS deals abroad in the last couple of years, but we have identified opportunities of around £7bn.”

The benefits for the NHS were plentiful, she said.

Why is the NHS under so much pressure?

 

“If NHS foundation trusts do this they can put profits into frontline patient services, but it also offers opportunities for recruitment and retention – many staff want to do some work abroad – as well as strengthening research,” she said.

In addition, the use of the NHS brand abroad would consolidate its reputation, she suggested.

“This is about showcasing our expertise to the world.”

A number of NHS arms-length bodies are in talks about setting up versions abroad, or training overseas teams in their expertise, she revealed.

Such organisations are limited by legal restrictions, but might be able to set up Special Purpose Vehicles in order to expand globally.

Professor SIr Malcom Grant, chairman of NHS England said NHS trusts would be offered tailored support from experts at Healthcare UK to develop their export capabilities, to help them reach a wide range of international markets.

“In the next year, the mission will be closely focused on providing a showcase for great British healthcare services, building a strong brand across the globe and realising the amazing export potential of our world-class health system,” he said.

However, the plans last night drew some criticism, with concern that any transfer of existing NHS staff overseas could exacerbate shortages in key groups, such as nurses.

Joyce Robin, from Patient Concern said: “This would be all very nice if we had a surplus of staff to go and share their expertise around the world, but the NHS is actually scrabbling to treat its own patients, because there is such a dire shortage of nurses. I think the idea is ridiculous.”

The department estimates that 400,000 businesses believe they could export but don’t.

“Brexit is not the occasion to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ but to embrace the opportunities that the changing pattern of global trade presents,” International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told a business audience in London, last month.

Under the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, passed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, hospitals are allowed to get 49 per cent of their income from commercial sources.

While major cancer centres like The Royal Marsden Foundation Trust get almost one third of income from private patients, investing profits into frontline NHS services, the total amount from such sources is only around 1 per cent of the health service’s resources.