August 22, 2008

Indian Venture for GP Practice


AN pounds 886m tide in medical tourists from the UK has led one Middlesbrough doctors' practice to enter the lucrative overseas treatment market.

GP Dilip Acquilla, who operates out of the South Grange NHS Medical Centre, and his wife Sushma, a specialist in public health care, launched Go-Health as a joint initiative with the 250-bed Apollo Victor Hospital in Goa, one of Asia's leading treatment centres, last month.

Dr Acquilla said the comparatively cheap cost of surgery abroad was driving the number of Britons seeking foreign hospital beds. The exodus is forecast to increase from 50,000 last year to an anticipated 200,000 by the end of the decade.

The British Medical Association cautions patients about risks associated with seeking treatment abroad, but it recognised the number of UK facilitators, such as Go-Health, was growing. A spokesman said it was unusual to find one attached to a NHS practice.

Dr Acquilla said the company was an "add on" to NHS services offered by the clinic and predicted it would be in "lifestyle" treatments, including cosmetic surgery not routinely available on the NHS, where it would experience most demand.

"It was the preserve of the rich and famous, but the ordinary person in the street wants access to it at a reasonable cost," he said.

Typically, he said, treatments were "half of what you pay in the UK". He added: "You can go to Goa, have a holiday and a treatment and still come back better off."

He claimed Go-Health was unusual in that it guaranteed pre and post operative screening by GPs in the UK.

"That's where in the past things have fallen apart because there's no one to look after people who have come back with complaints."

According to Tourism Research and Marketing, India is the top destination for Brits looking for nip and tucks and other elective treatments, as well as jumping waiting list for routine treatments such as joint replacements. Success rates compare favourably with UK hospitals. India, which already has a mature pharmaceutical industry, is predicted to make pounds 1.1bn out of medical tourists by 2011.

(c) 2008 Evening Gazette - Middlesbrough. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.