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NHS goes Global

  • Last modified date:
    25 March 2010
The Earth

NHS to expand in the global market

The NHS could generate additional funding from other countries and organisations using its knowledge and products, Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced today.

As the largest publicly-funded health system in the world, the NHS is home to groundbreaking treatments, cutting edge research and a hub of innovation. It is now looking to explore new international opportunities to export its knowledge, skills and services.

There is increasing demand from Governments and organisations abroad to share knowledge, provide services, or even replicate parts of the NHS.  A new organisation – NHS Global – will help NHS organisations to make the most of the global opportunities on offer.  The total global market for healthcare was around $4.1 trillion in 2007 and is growing at a significant rate – the NHS is home to world-class innovations that could benefit from a share in this market.

NHS Global will build on the success of organisations such as BBC Worldwide, which markets programmes abroad and invests money back into the BBC.  Some NHS organisations are already sharing their expertise internationally, such as the NHS Institute and Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Today the Government will set out the functions of NHS Global. The Department of Health has begun preliminary work with NHS organisations to bring products to market and will launch a call across the system for further ideas to be submitted for consideration by NHS Global.  It will also consult with NHS staff and stakeholders on how to ensure that NHS Global maximises benefit for patients in the UK.

This announcement comes as the Prime Minister announced a new world-class medical research centre at St Pancras in London, which will bring together research teams to tackle major medical challenges.  The new UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation will be a partnership with Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, UCL and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and will work closely with the NHS.  The Government has also set out the range of measures and investments undertaken over the last few years to strengthen Britain’s industrial capabilities and how we will ensure our key growth sectors, such as health and life sciences, thrive in the years ahead with the publication of New Industry, New Jobs: One Year On.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:

'Every year we invest over £100 billion in our NHS.  The NHS uses that money to provide high quality healthcare at home, but there is great potential to benefit from the exceptional knowledge and intelligence within the NHS.  This will mean better value for that investment of taxpayers’ money and funds raised going straight back into NHS organisations, which will benefit patients across the country.

'After a decade of record investment, the launch of NHS Global demonstrates that the NHS now has the confidence and capacity to play a greater role on the world stage.  However, there is still much more that we can do and demand for NHS products and knowledge far outstrips supply.  We know that BBC Worldwide has already had success in this area, and now the NHS, another of this country’s best-loved institutions, must make the most of these international opportunities.

'A key part of responding to the economic challenge that the NHS faces will be realising the full potential of innovation, not only making effective use of our knowledge and skills at home, but also making money abroad that can be reinvested back into the NHS.  So we will invite NHS staff to come forward with their suggestions for the NHS innovations which we could take to the world and in the coming months we will commence a consultation on these proposals.'

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, said:

'The NHS provides high quality health services to patients every day.  International demand for knowledge, skills and services developed in the NHS is growing.  What we need is a more systematic approach to supporting NHS organisations in making the most of these opportunities and bringing benefits back to the NHS and the taxpayer.  NHS Global provides us with the opportunity to take a significant step forward in making this happen.'

Professor Lord Darzi, UK Global Health and Life Sciences Ambassador, said:

'From my own experience I know that the NHS is home to some of the most exciting healthcare innovations in the world.  There are new ideas and techniques being developed every day to provide our patients with an ever higher quality of care.  There is significant international demand for NHS products and knowledge and it is important that NHS organisations are supported in making the most of this opportunity.

'Proper management of our knowledge and skills will create additional income to invest back into frontline services.  At the same time, greater participation in the Global Health agenda will provide greater security to the UK and the rest of the world in confronting international health security challenges, such as pandemic flu.  NHS Global will be key to unlocking this potential and, in doing so, will bring tangible benefits to the NHS, the UK and the world.'

The NHS leads the world in technologies and innovations to combat healthcare associated infections (HCAIs).  There is significant demand from other health systems across the world to learn from the NHS.  In addition, the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement’s ‘Productive Series’ and NHS Direct Software are examples of projects that could generate international business.  The Productive Series sets out steps to improve quality of care and deliver more productive services by focusing on supporting NHS staff to drive change.  NHS Direct software enables non-clinical staff to direct calls for clinical advice where appropriate, depending on callers’ responses to a series of linked questions about their symptoms.  This reduces staffing costs while maintaining standards of safety and quality.  Both of these NHS innovations have already received interest from potential customers overseas, such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the USA.

NHS Global will be able to remove barriers, provide technical and commercial support and help the NHS to get best value for the knowledge and skills it holds in a way that does not affect frontline services at home, by acting as a central contact point for countries interested in doing business with the NHS.  It will support the NHS in a range of business functions, including:

  • Identifying commercial opportunities in the NHS;
  • Generating demand in international markets;
  • Brokering partnerships between NHS organisations and overseas customers;
  • Identifying potential legal issues and risks;
  • Providing advice on Intellectual Property management; and
  • Marketing and communications.

In October 2009, the NHS Innovation Expo brought together healthcare providers to showcase innovation, spread best practice and generate business on a domestic and international level.  The transactions generated as a result of the EXPO exceeded over £27 million – with nearly £20 million more expected over the next 12-18 months.  NHS Global will help NHS organisations replicate this success more widely in an international market.

NHS Global will also use the expertise in the NHS to contribute to initiatives in the UK Global Health Strategy. The Department of Health has also today published its framework for NHS Involvement in International Development, which will help maximise the benefits of NHS contributions to developing countries. Individuals or organisations already do some work supporting developing health systems abroad but, in order to make a more effective contribution to the global health agenda, NHS Global will be able to help organisations to get involved in international development.

Last year the Prime Minister created the Office for Life Sciences to coordinate the Government's efforts to support the life sciences sector. The Office has been welcomed by industry and has developed a comprehensive package of actions to strengthen the business environment for life sciences in the UK, including the development of the Patent Box and the new Life Sciences Super Cluster.

To fully realise the potential of our life sciences industries, having listened to the sector, we need to go further in ensuring improved coordination across government and in committing to a sustainable future for the Office.

So, the Prime Minister has today announced that he is minded in the next Parliament to appoint for the first time a Minister for Life Sciences to report to both the Secretaries of State for Business and Health.

The Department of Health will consult on an operating model for NHS Global in the coming months and subject to the outcome of this consultation, expects to launch NHS Global in the summer.

Notes to editors

  1. The Department of Health will consult on a proposed operating model for NHS Global in the coming months.
  2. In order to support NHS organisations who wish to develop and implement links with developing countries, we are investing an additional £200,000 funding to the joint DfID and DH Links Fund.
  3. The Framework for NHS Involvement in International Development is available at the International Health Links Centre.
  4. For media enquiries only, please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5221. 

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