NHS hospitals are being encouraged by the Government to set up profit-making branches abroad to help fund British services, building on the ‘NHS Global’ initiative first introduced by Labour.
An agency will be set up to link hospital trusts with overseas governments that would like access to British-run health services.
District and general hospitals are unlikely to be involved. Instead, branches of world-renowned hospitals such as the Great Marsden and Guys’ and Thomas’ will be created abroad in a move similar to that of Moorfields Eye Hospital, which set up a branch under the same name in Dubai in 2007.
The initial investment for the project would come from private work carried out by the hospitals in the UK, with profits from the overseas enterprises reinvested into the NHS.
The drive will be launched by the Department of Health and UK Trade and Investment this autumn. It will build on NHS Global, an initiative introduced in 2010 by former health secretary Andy Burnham to help the NHS capitalise on the global healthcare market.
Pulse revealed last December that the scheme, spearheaded by former health minister Lord Darzi, had not signed any deals in the 18 months since its launch, despite spending £75,000 on establishing and maintaining the new venture.
Health minister Anne Milton said the move would benefit patients: ‘This is good news for British 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 it 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 move was criticised by some, who said it was further evidence of the Government’s commercialisation of the NHS.
Writing on Twitter, retired GP and prominent anti-reforms critic Dr Kailash Chand described the move as ‘privatisation by the back door’.
He said: ‘NHS is being broken up and sold as a commodity in and outside England for profit. Bevan must be turning in his grave.