by Ray Fleming

A fter two years of political antagonism over reforms and economies and a lot of recent reporting of poor patient treatment in many hospitals, Britain's National Health Service emerged as a star performer at the Arab Health Fair which opened in Dubai yesterday. An agency called Healthcare UK will be “selling” the experience and know-how which the NHS has accumulated over half a century to governments and health institutions in other countries, especially in those with a growing population but poor basic health care.

Supporters of the NHS will welcome the news that the overall excellence of the service it provides is being recognised by the British government in this way and seen as of commercial value. The obvious danger which has already been raised in some parts of the NHS is that the business opportunities developed by Healthcare UK will make demands on already overstretched staff and facilities in the NHS. It will be necessary to keep the two demands in balance; in theory, of course, the revenue from selling services should in time help the funding of the NHS in Britain.

Reports yesterday on this encouraging initiative claimed that overseas interest in Britain's health service was massively increased by the dancing doctors and nurses seen in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. I doubt that very much; the NHS has been widely and admiringly known professionally for decades.


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