Can the NHS be sold as an international brand?

The Guardian is reporting today that hospitals are to be encouraged by the government to sell their services abroad using the NHS brand to market themselves.

The idea would be that hospitals could pull in much needed cash by setting up clinics overseas using the NHS brand, which we recently saw celebrated as part of the London 2012 opening ceremony.

The approach mirrors that of BBC Worldwide, which generates cash 

However, the scheme, dreamed up the Department of Health and the UK Trade and Investment department, has already attracted criticism.

The Patients Association said it was concerned that setting up overseas clinics would be a distraction at a time when hospitals are under intense financial pressure at home.

But the government points to clinics that already exist, run by big-name NHS trusts with a reputation around the world, such as Moorfields Eye Hospital and Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in the Middle East. The government thinks there could be lucrative possibilities for NHS-standard healthcare services in growing markets such as India and China.

It also points to work that has already been undertaken in Libya by an NHS ambulance trust, which is helping to set up emergency services, while Virgin healthcare, with NHS GPs, is in discussions with Abu Dhabi about the provision of primary healthcare services.

UKTI and the DH think that the NHS could learn from the success of some of the major American brands, such as the private Mayo clinics and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, which have established themselves abroad, the Guardian reports.

The DoH is planning to establish a board to oversee the project and is to recruit a managing director at a salary of £100,000 to encourage NHS Trusts to move into the foreign markets.