Despite the recent turmoil and austerity measures imposed on Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), the public health provider is one of the best in the world. With the Indian government’s ambition to set up a 100 smart cities, the NHS model could be partly implemented in the country whose public health offering is far outmatched by the demand.
Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of the NHS was on a high-powered trade mission to India, comprising representatives of 23 British companies and NHS Trusts, to hold talks with key Health Ministry officials and representatives of hospitals of North India.
The visit comes after a bilateral agreement between the UK and India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the UK where he and his British counterpart David Cameron emphasised on the potential of increased investment and cooperation between the two countries in health-related sectors.
On the qualitative front, Indian government could learn a lot from the British health system which promises ‘Universal access to quality healthcare without any bias,’ says Sir Malcolm Grant. Great Britain’s NHS is ranked 18 in the world while India was ranked 112 according to the World Health Organization.
A primary cause for India’s dismal ranking is the lack of public expenditure to provide for such a system. While UK spends close to $150 billion on the NHS, the Indian government allocated approximately $5 billion to its health department in the 2015-16 budget.
Dominated by private players, India’s healthcare industry is growing at an annual clip of around 17 percent, but public spending has remained low and resulted in a creaking network of government hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas.
Nearly one million Indians die every year due to inadequate healthcare facilities and close to 700 million people have no access to specialist care. This is the gap that the NHS with its 7-decade history and innovation technology hopes to help India bridge. Grant says, ‘For a country like India, technology like tele-medicine can act as the primary healthcare stop rather than queuing up at a facility kilometers away.’
Another reason, the UK is hoping to export its expertise is the problems NHS itself is facing back home. UK has not really managed to drag itself out of the recession after the global economic slow down of 2007 and austerity measures are hitting the healthcare system hard. Selling its expertise and technology is one way the NHS is looking at expanding its revenue flows.
Sir Malcolm Grant however, seems optimistic about the future of the NHS saying the way to look at the current state of things is to ensure that ‘the right amount of funding reaches the right places and even a penny does not go to waste.’