NHS – The Olympic Legacy

While most of the world was scratching its head about the London Olympics’ opening ceremony, Danny Boyle managed to do something that successive UK Governments have failed to do for over sixty years.  The world watched as he promoted the NHS as a Global Brand.  For five years we’ve had debates about what the lasting legacy of the London Olympics would be, a lot of which has concentrated on what to do with the buildings.  The rest has been about whether it will persuade more people to become more active.  Whilst I’m not belittling the positive effects that it may have in reintroducing people to sports and providing renewed support for sporting facilities, I’d like to put forward a much more important legacy – we should follow on from Danny Boyle’s tribute and start making the NHS a Global Health Service.

Readers of this blog will know I’ve been espousing the need to turn the NHS into a Global Brand for many years.  But with the Olympic coverage disappearing from the front pages of our papers, that idea seems to be catching on.  Recently the Independent ran the headline that the Government was considering a Global NHS.  We now have the best opportunity to make that a reality – quite possibly a once in a lifetime chance to transform healthcare in theUK, and improve access to it around the world.

So Jeremy Hunt, here’s a challenge for you.  If you want to go down in history, here’s you chance.  Take this opportunity to show the world that the UK is great at healthcare as well as sport by making the NHS a truly global brand.

Britain has long had a tradition of exporting medicine.  At the most obvious level we have some of the great names in medical progress.  They in turn have founded some of the great global medical companies.  Our universities and training hospitals have been responsible for many medical staff that have gone on to work throughout the world.  And our healthcare systems continue to prove to be a magnet for those who want to practice medicine as well as those who seek the best treatment.  There is an irony in the fact that alongside local media coverage of the failings of the NHS, we earn millions of pounds from others who willingly come to the UK to seek the highest level of expertise in their treatment.

That’s what making the NHS a global brand is all about.  As the article pointed out, many facets of the global NHS already exist, albeit at a nascent stage.  There are joint ventures from Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street and Imperial College.  One of the reasons we don’t hear more about these and other overseas medical successes is vividly demonstrated by the comments to the Independent article which illustrate the delight of many in running down the NHS and identifying any change as a ploy to privatise it.  We need to progress past this myopic vision of the NHS.

What the Olympics have done is place this statement of our competence on a global stage.  It was a welcome advert for the NHS that was seen by billions around the world.  Now is the chance to build on that advertisement – possibly the most effect advert for a National institution that has even been made in the whole of history.  It is a wake-up call to consider what we can do to derive revenue from our sixty plus years of investment in the NHS.  That’s investment in expertise, in training and in gathering patient data from three generations of the British public – data which can provide the evidence base for the next generation of treatment.

So if you’re reading this, lobby your MP to support the call to open their eyes to the potential of the NHS.  Today, most people in the world know of and respect the BBC.  The NHS has every right to be just as well known – a trusted brand that is the synonym for compassionate, evidence based healthcare around the globe.  And a source of revenue and expertise to help it to continue to develop and provide a health service for the UK population.  It’s not a call to privatise it, but to employ its best features as a UK export.

It makes sense.  Isn’t it a fitting legacy for the London Olympics, providing a lasting legacy to the UK and the world that will persist long past the Olympic Park?  Where are you, Mr Hunt?  Your chance to make a name for yourself has come.