The UK NHS in India – be aware of what it means

india-ukI follow Indian healthcare with some interest.I have wondered about ‘why do doctors who work in India and want to continue to work in India take up exams such as FRCS, MRCS, etc?’ Many of these exams are conducted in India. I suppose I should give those doctors the benefit of the doubt and think that they do it as a part of knowledge improvement and knowledge validation with an international perspective. Many though may have commercial marketing motives. I ask myself if the content and the style of these exams are suitable for non-western practice? 

Now the news of NHS wanting to go to India. The NHS in UK is a government funded public service healthcare system. Is that the model the NHS will follow in India? The NHS in UK is increasingly outsourcing its activity to the private sector and inviting private sector in to the NHS. However, the NHS in its new wisdom may be choosing to go to India to provide services as a private provider. Which is the exact opposite of what the NHS does here in UK. The policy and strategy confusion seems to be immense and contradictory. The NHS currently does not have         any great operational experience of purely private provision.

Why would the Indians allow the NHS to do the exact opposite of what they do in UK in terms of business model, inside India? It is a question that should be asked in the Indian parliament; I am sure it will be asked if and when trouble arose.

More relevantly, why would the NHS itself want to do this? The reasons are not that difficult to fathom. India is a growing market in general, healthcare is a really high growth market, there is a clear need for more high quality providers. The non-commercial UK NHS wants to take commercial advantage of these factors to make money for UK. It is nothing else apart from money making. Money making in itself is not such a bad thing, only to couch it in the language of healthcare improvement, helping populations, transferring expertise, spreading knowledge and other obviously superficial euphemisms reflects poor intentions. I am a believer in the primacy of intentions.

I wonder if the NHS would still go to India if it was required to provide 72% of its Indian services in rural India (that is the percentage of population that lives in rural India) to the same standard and more or less the same price that         they provide in urban India? I ask because that is exactly what the NHS prides itself in UK; providing more or less the same standard of service at more or less equivalent costs all over UK. Well, if you want to be an international business thats how you begin to think; Coke and Pepsi do that, produce soft drinks, distribute it to all corners of India at almost the same price; which is exactly what they do anywhere in the world. Will the NHS do in India what their business model does in UK? Would the NHS in India treat the rich and the poor equally as they are required to do in UK?

I suspect that is not what the NHS in India will be about. I sincerely hope the NHS in India will make me eat my words as that will be a win-win for everyone.

The principles of care, content of education, models of care delivery that are needed in India are different. India is perhaps already suffering from a techno-centric, finance driven, western oriented, urban focussed, doctor obsessed healthcare system. As long as we are clear in our minds that whether it is examinations such as MRCP/FRCS/MRCOG/MRCGP which are conducted in India or a possible NHS as a provider in India are simply commercial businesses operating in India for profit making; as long as we recognise and be constantly aware of this its fine. Once we start assigning higher value, philosophical or operational, we will be doing a disservice to the Indian public by deliberately misleading them. Those of you who are highly sensitive amongst the Indians should also reflect on whether this is a form of cultural and knowledge colonialism.

I am British and work in the NHS. I am admirer of the NHS system and I believe the NHS in UK does a great job in terms of many clinical, operational and cost parameters. It is my vested personal interest that NHS in India is successful commercially. I am of Indian origin and have family in India, hence creating awareness of potential sub-optimisations is probably my broader duty.

 

About the Author : Dr Makani Hemadri MBBS (Madras) FRCS (Edin) MBA (Leics) works in general surgery in the NHS in England. He is a Fellow of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement; during his fellowship year in 2009 he had the opportunity to interact and learn from the best sources in healthcare improvement such as Intermountain Healthcare and IHI in the USA and Kings Fund in UK. He has held the Leaders for Change Award 2008 from the Health Foundation UK. He is actively engaged in the teaching and training of healthcare delivery improvement.

Hemadri blogs in his personal capacity at http://successinhealthcare.blogspot.co.uk/ He can be followed on twitter @HemadriTweets

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post and the views expressed in the article are solely that of the author. The incidents about patient experiences stated in this blog are completely fictional and any resemblance to any person(living or dead)and/or incident is purely co-incidental.

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