NHS trusts ‘will work with India’
Friday 23rd August 2013, 5:50AM BST.
Up to 20 NHS trusts are planning to go into business with health providers in India to boost their income, it has been reported.
Labour’s former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who now chairs the UK India Business Council, said the move would bring mutual benefit to the UK and India who would be able to share expertise, The Independent reported.
The Government today denied suggestions that the plans could lead to NHS patients being flown to India for cheaper treatment.
In an interview with the Health Service Journal, Ms Hewitt said between 10 and 20 trusts are in talks with Indian companies, mainly regarding doctor swaps.
“Our ambition is to get as many [NHS trusts, health companies and charities] there as we can,” Ms Hewitt told the HSJ.
“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.”
Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, called the proposals a “huge scandal”.
“If trusts do not have enough money to treat patients in Britain, they should be getting help from the Government,” he told The Daily Mirror.
“I am extremely concerned that the next step will be patients being flown to India for treatment because these trusts think that it could save them money
“Doctors and consultants should not be sent to India to make money for cash-strapped trusts.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We have no intention to send NHS patients to India for treatment.
“NHS patients will always come first, but we should help and support the health service to compete internationally for the benefit of its patients in England.
“Under no circumstances will the quality of NHS services at home be compromised by the sharing of NHS expertise abroad.”
Ms Hewitt, who served as Health Secretary between 2005 and 2007, said it would take time before trusts saw significant revenue from Indian contracts but added that the income could help them close the NHS’ funding gap, The Independent reported.
A cross-government unit, Healthcare UK, was set up last year to link UK health providers with possible clients overseas, the newspaper said.