By Aditi Khanna
London, Mar 25 (PTI) Healthcare experts from India and the UK gathered for a first-of-its-kind conference in Birmingham to explore opportunities emerging after the Indian government's Ayushman Bharat initiative.
The conference, which was organised at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham by the Indian High Commission in the UK, Consulate General of India in Birmingham and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) last week, brought together around 120 experts to deliberate upon workforce challenges and analyse the scale of exchange possible in the field of healthcare.
Jacqui Smith, Chair of UHB Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, set the tone of the conference by emphasising on "mutually beneficial" partnerships on offer for India and the UK in the sector.
The University Hospitals Bristol (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust is a National Health Service foundation trust in the UK.
"The current Indian government has put a strong emphasis on healthcare for all Indians and this has already led to new research and development in healthcare initiatives," said Andy Street, the Mayor of West Midlands.
"There couldn't be a better time for us to explore synergies and potential partnerships between India and the West Midlands on life sciences," he said, in reference to the key focus area of life sciences.
The Indian high commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, said India and the UK must work together to address current challenges faced by both economies.
"India has been able to provide world class medical treatments at one of the most competitive prices," she said, adding that India's traditional systems of medicines had a lot to offer the world.
The National Health Authority of India (NHAI) laid out the various facets of Ayushman Bharat, described as the one of world's largest government-funded healthcare insurance schemes which is expected to benefit over half a billion people. NHAI CEO Indu Bhushan said the initiative was a "game-changer", which offers public and private sector international healthcare organisations a chance to collaborate in the field. The collective bargaining power of 500 million people will drive demand for high quality healthcare from both private and government providers, he noted.
DS Rana, Chairman of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, said his institution was keen to partner with British counterparts to address the challenge of shortage of skilled manpower in both countries.
The India-UK Healthcare Conference, backed by the UK's state-funded National Health Service (NHS), also explored opportunities for British companies to invest in India to tap into the "healthcare revolution" in the country, where the size of the industry is expected to grow to USD 280 billion by 2020.
"The NHS is well placed to play a crucial role in strengthening global health systems. The education and training the NHS is able to offer will offer countries such as India a great opportunity to develop a skilled workforce, which is able to meet the needs of not only individual professional aspiration, but also the needs of the healthcare system," said Prof Kiran Patel, Medical Director, NHS England – West Midlands.
"Indians form the single largest group among foreign-origin healthcare professionals serving in the NHS. No doubt, they can become the catalyst for taking UK-India collaboration to another level," said Consul General of India in Birmingham Aman Puri, who also revealed that the conference is likely to become an annual feature in the city's calendar. PTI AK SCY