Britain’s cash-strapped National Health Service(NHS) is planning to strike up a series of healthcare deals in India, including inviting Indian doctors to treat patients in UK, in a bid to boost its coffers.
Patricia Hewitt, Labour’s former health secretary and current chair of UK India Business Council (UKIBC), claimed that between 10 and 20 NHS trusts are holding talks with Indian providers and “half a dozen to a dozen” should reach an agreement by 2015.
The proposals centre around NHS doctors being flown to India to treat patients in a bid to raise cash for British hospitals and less expensive Indian doctors coming to the UK to perform operations.
Hewitt said that it would take time before trusts saw significant revenue from India, but added that the income could help them close the NHS’ funding gap, which is projected to be as large as 30 billion pounds by 2020.
“Our ambition is to get as many (NHS trusts, health companies and charities) there as we can. I would certainly hope by 2015 we will be able to say- here is what they are doing and selling and here are the benefits that are accruing both to Britain and to India,” Hewitt told the Health Service Journal (HSJ).
India’s healthcare market is set to be worth 110 billion pounds by 2017 and the British government is keen to encourage British businesses and NHS trusts to gain a foothold in the sub-continent.
One of the key areas where British expertise is sought is in India’s growing primary care sector, which many NHS experts are already helping to develop.
While the British government denied suggestions this could mean patients being flown out from Britain to India for cheaper treatment, health campaigners have warned against such a move.