Health Policy

British NHS patients soon to be treated in India

In a ground breaking move, the British government is to allow patients with non-emergency conditions to be treated in Indian hospitals under a scheme paid for by British taxpayers. Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadosson his visit to London, told a gathering of Indian physicians there that he hoped the scheme would be up and running ‘in a few months’. There at the opening of  the 10th anninversary celebrations of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), Ramadoss said the scheme would enable British patients under the state-funded National Health Service to use Indian healthcare facilities previously denied to them. Under current European Union regulations, insurance only covers treatment that falls within three hours of flying time from the European patients’ country of location. But Ramadoss said that ‘three hours or seven and a half hours’ made little difference in a globalising world, where healthcare had to compete in the global marketplace. Last month, India’s Trade and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had in his visit to London said that the NHS could cut patients’ waiting time by outsourcing treatment to India, prompting a positive response from British authorities. Growing waiting lists in NHS-run hospitals has become a political issue in Britain. In his comments, Ramadoss said some 300,000 foreigners came to India for medical treatment last year. He also said he met British officialsearlier to discuss the issue of Indian doctors who have been left stranded in Britain because of retrospective changes made to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) visa rules. India’s High Commissioner to Britain Kamalesh Sharma, in his last speech before taking over as Commonwealth Secretary General in April, said: ‘six to seven thousand Indian doctors have been left in No Man’s Land. ‘They came under one set of circumstances, and found that things had changed.’

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