A new governmental scheme could expand The National Health Services abroad as the government invites hospitals to set up profit-making branches to raise funds for patients in England, officials said on Tuesday.
Under the scheme, set to be launched jointly by the Department of Health and UK Trade and Industry this autumn, famous hospitals such as Great Ormond Street could create new branches in foreign countries.
The announcement comes a month after NHS staff including those from Great Ormond street played a starring role in the opening ceremony for the London Olympics, drawing international attention.
The Independent newspaper reported that upfront investment would only be drawn from income from private patients and any profits made overseas would be channelled back to England.
The proposal was reportedly inspired by hospitals in the US, including Baltimore's Johns Hopkins, which have taken similar steps.
Health Minister Anne Milton said: "This is good news for NHS patients who will get better services at their local hospital as a result of the work the NHS is doing abroad and the extra investment that will generate.
"This is also good news for the economy, which will benefit from the extra jobs and revenue created by our highly successful life sciences industries as they trade more across the globe."
Others criticised the move. Jamie Reed, a health spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said: "At a time when staff are losing their jobs and waiting times are rising, the Government's priority should be sorting out the mess it has created in our NHS."
The plan draws on a scheme first introduced under Labour which has seen hospitals expand abroad including London's Moorfields Eye Hospital, which has a branch in Dubai.