GGM's CEO Pete Read invited to speak on international panel at Private Acute Healthcare conference in London

 17-Oct-17, Global Growth Markets


Global Growth Markets CEO Pete Read was invited to speak about opportunities in China and Asia in the concluding panel session, "London and the international market", at Laing Buisson's Private Acute Healthcare Conference in London on 12-Oct-17. Speaking alongside fellow panellists Andrew Coombs from HCA Healthcare, Ksenia Shcherbino of AngloMedical and international healthcare consultant Elizabeth Boultbee, Pete Read said that while UK healthcare is generally well-regarded in China, the UK government and private health providers could do more to promote specific services and institutions in order to compete with other medical tourism destinations such as the US, Japan, Singapore and Germany.

Pete Read photo

Pete Read, CEO, Global Growth Markets


Sources of international patients to the UK 

The discussion began by focusing on the likely future growth in international business for London's private sector hospitals in the coming years. Pete Read said he understands from industry sources that growth in patients from the Middle East - the established mainstay of international patient flow into London - is likely to be flat or even decline slightly. This is a result of lower oil prices curtailing discretionary spending as well as efforts by Dubai, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern governments to develop their own healthcare sector and reduce outbound medical travel.

He pointed to China as a relatively untapped source of inbound patients for London. The UK currently has a very small share - in the hundreds or low thousands - of the more than 500,000 patients travelling out of China for care overseas each year. But he said it is important to understand that most of these patients are not travelling for acute care. Most of them are seeking elective procedures, wellness treatment, health-checks and cosmetic surgery in other Asian countries, especially Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Even so, the market potential for the UK in China still exists, as the smaller number of high acuity patients spend the most on treatment. There are more than a million USD millionaires in China, and about 5-10% of the international trips by this group are made for medical or health reasons. 

Singapore's changing role 

Asked about Singapore's role in international medical tourism, Read pointed out that the Singaporean government stopped promoting the country as a medical tourism destination about three years ago, but it still attracts many wealthy patients from Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as Europe. He suggest that Indonesia is another possible source market for UK providers to tap into.   

The UK needs to promote itself

On the opportunity for London to provide acute care for Chinese medical travellers, Read said that while the quality of UK healthcare is generally well-regarded in China, there is not much awareness of individual hospitals or specialist treatments in which the UK excels. The UK government and private health providers could do more to promote specific services and institutions in order to compete with other medical tourism destinations such as the US, Japan, Singapore and Germany.

The UK government has agreements in place with the Chinese government to assist in developing China's domestic healthcare system, for example by transferring NHS skills and know-how to Chinese counterparts, and encouraging UK healthcare training and care companies to set up in China. It should now, rather than shying away from promoting the UK as a destination for Chinese patients, highlight the positive links between outbound medical tourism and the development of China's health services. For example:

  • Partnerships between hospitals in the two countries see Chinese doctors receiving training
  • UK practitioners visit China resulting in the transfer of knowledge and technologies from the UK    

The need for positive publicity at home

Read said there is also a pressing need for the UK government to address the public misunderstanding at home, that medical tourism into the UK is 'bad', and to differentiate between patients from overseas taking advantage of 'free' NHS services, and self-pay patients using private sector facilities, who spend on average seven times as much as a UK based patient.  

Five-star service - not yet

In the concluding discussion around the quality of service available to inbound health tourists coming to London, Read said that while many of London's private hospitals are very well appointed and provide or arrange concierge services such as airport meet-and-greet, and tourism add-ons such as trips to Stonehenge, there is still some way to go before they can compete with the 5-star service provided by industry leaders such as Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok or Raffles Medical in Singapore.   


GGM can help with international healthcare and medical tourism market opportunity assessment, strategic planning, market research and partnering - in China, Asia and other global growth markets. Contact us to find out more.


 More on China's healthcare market  

 Insights