The UK’s National Health Service yesterday spoke to us about its plans to provide healthcare services to sponsors outside of the country – including pharmaceutical companies, contract research organisations (CROs) and other national healthcare systems.
In an update earlier today the Government investment organisation UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) said the two UK Pharmas are some of the first to be involved.
“We are currently working with a few firms over this including GSK and AstraZeneca,” a spokesman told us. “We will work with any firm that comes to us and wants advise on how to work with the NHS abroad so they have an idea of what is needed to do business in markets around the world – though that many of them do have extensive prior knowledge.”
When asked what other Big Pharmas are currently working with the project, and what other sorts of firm the NHS and UKTI hope to work with however, the spokesman was unable to comment.
He said: “The proposal is in still in its infancy, and the unit hasn’t been finalised yet within Whitehall. Specific firms and specific initiatives are yet to come.”
Is it right for a Government bod to work as a business?
The UKTI admitted the NHS is entering a competitive game in the healthcare services market, “but that’s just part of the way business is done.”
However the spokesman said he believes the provider is “confident” the venture will be profitable, or the proposal would never have reached the advanced stage it is currently in. “There is a huge potential for additional work and revenue to be granted where it otherwise wouldn’t,” he said.
When asked if it is right for a tax-paid Governmental body to work with firms as if it were a business – in which there are risks involved – the spokesperson said that the money is entirely separate to the NHS’s current £100bn budget, and that only “sensible” partnerships will be made.
In response to the same question, the Department of Health (DoH) sent a statement from Health Minister Anne Milton which read: "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 UKTI added that the NHS has always worked alongside private companies, and that the move would simply be the first time the association has done that internationally.
“It’s not watering down the NHS. If we can be profitable abroad it’s good for the NHS and balances everything else,” the spokesman said.