A number of London’s best known hospitals could take part in an initiative that may see NHS services set up profit-making branches in other countries.
Great Ormond Street, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Marsden are among the hospitals that could take part in the scheme.
Money raised from the initiative would be used to raise funds for patients in the UK, as well as boosting the international profile of the health service.
But Labour has called on the government to focus on “patients, not profits”, while the Patients Association fears the scheme could shift focus away from local services.
Health minister Anne Milton believes the project would have benefits for both the British economy and patients in the UK.
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.”
The initiative will be launched by the Department of Health and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in the autumn. They will look to establish links between hospitals wishing to expand and foreign governments that would like to access British health services.
Foundation Trust Network board member and King’s College Hospital, London, chief executive Tim Smart said hospitals need to look at other sources of funding to make services viable and sustainable.
Smart said foundation trusts and health organisations must make clear how they make profits and how they are pumped back into UK health services.
He added: “The expertise in the NHS is of great value to healthcare in emerging countries, and provided all the safeguards for the NHS are secure, we can bring benefits to patients here and abroad.
“UK Healthcare will have an important role to play in supporting NHS organisations in developing overseas opportunities, both by sharing NHS skills, knowledge and ability, and expanding access to NHS facilities where that would bring advantages for NHS patients too.
“UKTI has been showcasing British excellence in healthcare as part of the ‘Business Ambassador’ programme during the Olympics, and after the centre-stage part for the NHS in the opening ceremony, that was a good thing to do.”
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