Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Will expansion of the NHS abroad benefit UK patients? No

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 02 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:e8496
  1. Allyson M Pollock, professor of public health research and policy
  1. 1Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK
  1. a.pollock{at}

The new NHS mandate calls for hospitals to set up more profit making branches abroad. Philip Leonard (doi:10.1136/bmj.e8493) says this will bring new revenue to the cash strapped service, but Allyson Pollock says that promoting trade in healthcare over universal access benefits no one

Generating income from private patients abroad to fund the hard pressed NHS and meet patients’ needs at home sounds like a good idea. The problem is that the NHS’s system is not being exported; the NHS logo is simply a front for global business corporations.

David Cameron’s announcement in August this year that the NHS “brand” would be tied to commercial investors has become Healthcare UK, a commercial joint venture between the UK Trade and Investment department and the Department of Health. Spun as a plan to set up NHS clinics abroad, the scheme covers all aspects of international trade from e-health and cross border trade in patients, to the trade in medical staff, technology, drugs, and intellectual property.

Selling NHS branded care abroad is not new. New Labour plugged the idea from 2003 to 2010, calling it variously NHS Global, DH International, …

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