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Howard Lyons was given the job of making money by selling the NHS brand and expertise abroad by this Government. Today ‘Health UK’ will be officially launched at a health trade fair in Dubai. According to Mr Lyons he already has had dozens of enquiries from governments around the world and hundreds from embassies.

Danny Boyle said in the summer that he included dancing doctors and nurses and the NHS because the NHS was ‘very dear to peoples’ hearts’. He added ‘one of the core values of our society is that it does not matter who you are, you will get treated the same in terms of healthcare…..And that felt like something that we thought was a great thing to celebrate’. Other countries are apparently interested in the NHS because as Howard Lyons says ‘overseas the NHS is a very, very strong brand. It means safety, security, health care for all and there are others who want to emulate that’.

Many hundreds if not thousands of doctors volunteer for spells in third world countries and many well known UK hospitals already provide training and send consultants to teach abroad; having a central organisation promoting them as a part of the NHS would perhaps ensure it is done in a less ad hoc fashion.

Our medical schools and Royal Colleges and training are highly rated. Those of you who will become doctors in this country have the satisfaction of knowing that your medical degree is accepted and welcomed worldwide. The UK invented among other things MRI scans, CT scans, and IVF and we have won 34 Nobel prizes for medicine – more than any other country apart from the USA. The NHS model of primary care is highly regarded. The skills and the ‘gate keeper’ role of GPs are important in keeping costs down [see p 56 of my book Medical School Interviews All You Need To Know The Knowledge]. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence [NICE] is well regarded as a leader in evidence based medicine [p 69-72]

All countries face enormous challenges with regard to health care. All developed countries have rapidly rising health care costs because of an ageing population and increasing technology. Enoch Powell, a former Health Secretary declared spending on health ‘a bottomless pit’ and indeed it can be. Britain however spends less of its GDP on health than any other developed country yet it does well in its performance with good survival and treatment rates for chronic conditions and mid ranking rates for cancer survival compared with other developed countries. The USA which has almost non existent primary care, spends twice as much of its GDP as Britain on health care yet has the worst health care statistics of all the developed nations. In August 2011 The WHO [World Health Organisation] showed that the UK saved more lives for each pound spent than any other developed country [apart from Ireland] over 25 years.

The NHS is an important subject for medical school applicants, as Danny Boyle said, it is dear to most people and you will be expected to know about it. Surveys consistently rank the NHS number one when British people are asked to decide what things about Britain they are most proud of. You as a potential medical student should know about how it was founded, its core principles and how it runs. The NHS will pay for some of your clinical years at medical school and your training as a junior doctor. Its principles and ethics should become part of you. It does have problems and faces major challenges and we should all strive to improve it. However like virtually all doctors, I am profoundly grateful and proud to work for the NHS and truly appreciate the fact that I never have to add to a patient’s distress by demanding payment!

For further information about the NHS, how it works and comparisons with other health systems read my book Medical School Interviews All You Need To Know The Knowledge pages 51-73