NHS hospitals look overseas to boost profits

Budget woes at home but new body could help trusts generate revenue abroad

NHS hospitals are poised to set up profit-making business units overseas in an effort to boost revenue as public spending cuts begin to take hold.

A body called Healthcare UK will be launched in the coming months which will enable leading hospitals and clinicians in the UK to establish private operations overseas, providing consulting services in addition to the actual delivery of care.

It is understood that any investment needed to set up overseas initiatives would have to be drawn from UK hospitals’ private patient work. That should be easier to do than in the past, after the Health & Social Care Act, passed by Parliament earlier this year, increased the limit on the amount of private revenue NHS trusts could raise.

The new body is likely to be overseen by a board made up of officials from the Department of Health, UK Trade and Investment and the NHS commissioning board.

Critics of the plans say that the initiative will distract hospitals from their core responsibility of treating NHS-funded patients in the UK.

Supporters, though, argue that it is a logical evolution of an increasingly mobile economy. They say it will give UK hospitals access to much-needed revenue from overseas at a time when their budgets are being squeezed by increased healthcare costs, tightening budgets and an aging population.

The move follows a celebration of the NHS during the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Olympic Games, when the health service’s achievements and brand were broadcast to a global audience of billions.

Markets which could prove particularly lucrative for UK hospitals include India, China and the Middle East.

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