Ken Clarke In China On NHS Export Mission
The UK's trade envoy Ken Clarke is on a week-long trip to China in an effort to 'export' elements of the NHS to the world's second largest economy.
Mr Clarke, a former health secretary, has brought a 50-strong delegation of health professionals with him for the trip which will "promote the UK's world-beating healthcare sector companies to the Chinese market".
Thirty-eight British health companies, universities and training hospitals are represented on the mission which will visit Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Zhejiang and Shanghai.
"I am very happy to be leading another delegation of excellent British companies to China, which will build on the progress made by the Prime Minister when he visited in November," Mr Clarke said.
"The British healthcare system is the best in the world, and there will be important export opportunities as China invests huge sums of money in its healthcare system over the years ahead."
China's health sector has been identified by the British Government as a "high value opportunity".
The trip was scheduled to take place up to a year ago but was postponed, perhaps because of political disagreements between the UK and China following the meeting between David Cameron and the Dalai Lama in May 2012.
The delegation, which includes representatives from Sheffield Hallam University, Nottingham University and Swansea University as well as BUPA, Sinophi Healthcare and various NHS trusts, is the largest-ever British health and social care mission to China.
They will be introduced to potential Chinese buyers. The aim, according to the Government, is to build relationships and establish the links needed to unlock trade opportunities between the two countries.
"Healthcare and life sciences are among the strongest sectors of the British economy and our standards are held in high regard overseas," Mr Clarke said.
"As a country, we must play to our strengths if we are to continue to build a healthy, modern economy, and there can be no doubt that exports in this area will play an important part.
"From building a hospital to training the staff to building the IT and management systems, the UK has the expertise that China needs as it builds a healthcare system that is projected to be spending a trillion dollars every year by 2020."
Mr Clarke will also meet the Chinese Health Minister Li Bin in Beijing. The two men are to host a joint conference on dementia in the Chinese capital.
With the largest population in the world, it is no surprise that the country has the largest dementia population too.
According to figures published by the British Embassy in Beijing, there were 9.19 million people with dementia in China in 2010 compared with 3.68 million in 1990.
Ninety-three percent of dementia cases in Chinese people aged 60 and over are undetected. Only a fraction receive medical treatment.
The management of hospitals is also an area of opportunity. The UK's Sinophi Healthcare has already signed contracts for hospital management and investment worth £120m.
"The big opportunity over the next decade is to work with China's state/pubic hospital system: 90% of China's 21,000+ hospitals and 95% of the beds," Simon MacKinnon , the chairman of Sinophi Healthcare told Sky News.
Exchange programmes between UK and Chinese health firms are also planned to aid education, training and knowledge.
According to figures issued by the organisers of Mr Clarke's visit, Chinese health spending has grown from 1% of GDP in 2002 to 5.15% today presenting a massive opportunity for the UK.
An organisation called Healthcare UK, an agency of the UK Government, has been set up to promote UK health expertise abroad.
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