NHS Commercial Ventures Abroad

  oresome 13:35 21 Aug 2012

I had it in mind that the NHS was struggling to provide an acceptable service within budget on it's home turf.

Yet there is talk of exporting the brand with the resulting profits helping the country's economy.

Of course, with any commercial enterprise comes risk. What if they make a loss? Where does the money come from then? What expertise has the NHS got in running anything for profit?

Is this a good idea or a serious distraction from the job of managing the NHS?

  Forum Editor 13:58 21 Aug 2012

It's an interesting subject.

I know the CEO of a large London NHS Primary Care Trust, and she was recently invited to advise the American government on setting up similar health trusts there. Her expertise is in hospital management, and although she doesn't need to make a profit she certainly has to manage a range of services within very strict cost parameters.

I would imagine that the value of the NHS brand lies in the wealth of medical administration skills that lie within it. Commercial Consulting services would seem to be the way to go, or some kind of franchising arrangement. it's easier to run that kind of service at a profit.

  spuds 16:12 21 Aug 2012

I have just spent a few days with my local hospital trust, and one of the subjects that came up, was the amount of money owing to the NHS by overseas visitor's.

Perhaps well off beam, but having outreach overseas facilities might help in recovering the possibility of these bad debt's?.

My major concern, would be that the overseas outlets should be self-supporting companies, and not managed by an overload of poor administration and red tape.

  carver 16:13 21 Aug 2012

And there are *plenty * of people who would prefer to go abroad to get even better treatment than they can get here.

Would be an idea if they sorted the NHS out here before talking about exporting it.

  Forum Editor 16:20 21 Aug 2012


There are aspects of the NHS which are the envy of the world, and there's plenty of expertise that would be of great value in other countries.

It's fashionable for some British people to complain endlessly about the NHS but I can assure you there are reasons why so many people want to come here from other countries for treatment. Travel to places like China, India, and Africa, and see how the people who live there feel about medical treatment in their own countries, and you'll realise how lucky we are.

Try turning up at a rural Chinese hospital with a pain in your tummy, or a gash on your leg and see what they tell you to do.

  Condom 16:36 21 Aug 2012

As the boss of a world renowned NHS hospital I was the first to venture into the "realms" of taking patients from outside my catchment area for "private" major orthopaedic surgery. I was only able to do this as it was elective surgery and we were normally quite empty over Xmas & New Year for this type of work. We arranged a package with another Health Authority, hired the "Lourdes" hospital coach to transport patients home, and carried out 30 very difficult operations and cleared this other Health Authorities long wait list.

A very successful experiment which boosted our hospital's finances and paid for the upgrade of our private facilities. Unfortunately it didn't stop me from being somewhat pilloried on the front page of the Independent. As far as orsome's comments are concerned many large hospitals have very successful "private" facilities these days which make large profits and have the benefit of on site emergency facilities should anything go wrong, which most private hospitals do not have. So yes the skills and expertise are there.

Whether this can be exported overseas is another question entirely as it would depend on the facilities available. Theatre complexes cost £millions to build and cannot stand on their own as they need other hospital services as support. It has worked in the Education field where UK & USA world renowned names are in evidence. Mind you I do not think that Shrewsbury School in Bangkok has any official links with the Shrewsbury School on my doorstep and I'm pretty sure the same goes for Eton School but they do attract very rich Thais. Bangkok Hospitals on the other hand would put many NHS hospitals to shame with the facilities they have and I'm not sure if there are enough world famous NHS hospitals which could compete with them.

As many countries now have very sophisticated medical facilities

  oresome 10:51 22 Aug 2012


I fear your disclosure of some expertise on this topic has scared others off from voicing an opinion!

  Condom 12:17 22 Aug 2012


I would hope not as it is a subject certainly worth debating but I am uncertain that what is being proposed is really a runner.

I have no idea how that extra sentence appeared at the end as I thought it had been deleted earlier in my thoughts but apparently not

  Forum Editor 14:31 22 Aug 2012

"Whether this can be exported overseas is another question entirely as it would depend on the facilities available. Theatre complexes cost £millions to build and cannot stand on their own as they need other hospital services as support."

There are specialist medical skills within the NHS that can be exported. Moorfields eye hospital is a case in point. A Moorfields eye hospital opened in Dubai five years ago, and in the last financial year it made a profit of £300,000 - nothing to set the world on fire, but a decent enough profit, nevertheless. The same thing could be done elsewhere, but decisions must not be made in a hurry.

People who say 'the NHS should sort itself out here first' are really missing the point. The idea is to provide private medical facilities to other countries, thereby achieving additional revenue streams and profit. If that can be achieved the idea is a winner.

  oresome 15:44 22 Aug 2012

I don't think people are missing the point.

The NHS is in crisis and the management should devote it's entire attention to the problems here.

If a business opportunity exists overseas, it should be seized by the private sector in this country who pay taxes in this country and indirectly help finance the NHS.

Any business venture will require capital and involve risk which could jeopardise services in the UK. Best leave it to Richard Branson etc, who best understand these issues, but ensure they pay taxes here.

  SimpleSimon1 15:46 22 Aug 2012

And there are plenty of people who would prefer to go abroad to get even better treatment than they can get here.

At the risk of incurring FEs ire by going [slightly] off-topic, may I suggest that, as far as acute treatment is concerned, the NHS is hard-to-beat! I realise that this is only a personal experience but, last year, I went to hospital for standard test as part of an insurance check-up and they found something nasty. 30 mins later, they had arranged for me to be admitted for surgery the following week and - unscheduled - I was going through the various 'pre-flight' checks that they seem to do these days before putting you under the knife.

Happily, after a good 'rummage around' (as the surgeon put it!) it turned out that things weren't so bad as the test had suggested. Nevertheless, when it had seemed urgent, the NHS came through promptly and with care.

I'm quite sure that the situation isn't nearly so rosy for chronic treatment and maybe that's where hospitals could get some leverage by setting up 'continental' outposts with lower overheads (as FE says, Bangkok hospitals are incredible) but it sounds like that's something Condom would know a lot more about than me)

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