Research may have implications for debate on expanding NHS abroad
Private patients from abroad are a lucrative source of income for the NHS, new research suggests.
A study published today in the British Medical Journal, which is based on Freedom of Information requests to NHS foundation trust hospitals, found that international private patients make up 6% of patients (across a sample of 28 hospitals).
But despite this small proportion, these patients were responsible for 35% of total private income in these trusts.
The authors concluded: “This indicates that private foreign patients may be more lucrative than UK patients treated privately within the NHS.”
The research also found that more UK residents currently travel abroad for treatment than international patients who travel to the UK to access treatment (both on the NHS and privately).
The study may have implications for the debate on the expansion of the NHS abroad.
A body called Healthcare UK was launched last year with the aim of enabling leading hospitals and clinicians in the UK to establish private operations overseas, providing consulting services in addition to the actual delivery of care.
In January, Healthcare UK was launched in the Middle East at a major international trade show.
Health Minister Lord Howe said at the time: "Healthcare UK is good news for the UK economy which will benefit from the extra jobs and revenue created by our highly successful healthcare industries as they trade more across the globe. It also means more money for the NHS across the UK.”