Under the proposals, the NHS hopes to provide a selection of services to a range of different outlets across the world – including pharma and biotech firms, contract research organisations (CROs), and other healthcare systems.
And though the organisation could not confirm exactly which services would be provided a Department of Health (DoH) spokesman confirmed that clinical trial offerings would be on the list.
If the plans – put together jointly with Governmental investment organisation UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – go ahead, it will be the first time Britain’s tax-funded health care system works as a service provider for a range of firms outside of the UK.
Speaking to Outsourcing-Pharma.com, the DoH spokesman said there is a need for the NHS’s services overseas, and that all profits will go back into the local system.
“We’ve thought this through and want to provide more systematic support for those parts of the health service that can earn income abroad,” he said.
“No part of the NHS will be forced to do this, and not every hospital will want to or will have the capacity to. But where they do, we will support them so that NHS patients get the benefit of more income for our health service.”
When asked about the decision despite reports that deputy chief executive David Stout said profits would be “marginal” compared to the NHS’s £100bn budget, the spokesman replied simply that any and all profits would be used in the UK.
Running before they can walk?
In an interview with the BBC, UK patient group the Patients Association was critical, saying the NHS should focus its efforts on local troubles.
CEO Katherine Murphy referred specifically to the recently implemented Health and Social Care Bill, which saw a massive overhaul of the entire system.
She said: "At a time of huge upheaval in the health service, when waiting times are rising and trusts are being asked to make £20bn of efficiency savings, this is another concerning distraction. The priority of the government, hospital trusts and clinicians should be NHS patients."
However the NHS and DoH insist the move will not leave UK patients short.
The spokesman told us: “Under no circumstances will the quality of NHS services be compromised by the sharing of NHS expertise abroad. If anything the reverse will be true, as NHS Trusts will benefit from increased income which will benefit services to NHS patients.”
The UKTI has also spoken to us today about the proposals. Read the exclusive tomorrow on www.Outsourcing-Pharma.com.