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16-05-2012 | Legal medicine | Article

UK–India partnership ‘offers primary care promise’

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MedWire News: Promoting collaboration between India and the UK could strengthen primary healthcare in both nations, according to a "white paper" published this week in the BMJ.

The paper sets out a number of opportunities for collaborative efforts, building on India's aims for Universal Health Coverage and bringing expertise and innovations from India to the UK.

Authors Mala Rao, from the University of East London, and David Mant, from Oxford University, outline a strategy that includes collaborative training in primary care across health disciplines, enhancing the status of primary healthcare in India along the lines of the UK Medical and Nursing Councils and Royal College of Practitioners, and developing public‑private partnerships based on UK National Health Service (NHS) experience.

The paper also highlights the potential for developing affordable medical technologies, drawing on India's strengths in technical innovations and the UK's in assessing and evaluating technologies.

In particular, the report emphasises that India is a world leader in the generic pharmaceutical industry, producing drugs and vaccines at low cost.

"It needs to exploit this opportunity and a strong primary care sector would do this," write Rao and Mant.

The paper comes out of the India‑UK Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forum, established in 2010, which identified health as a major area for the two countries to work more closely on.

"It is expected that India's 12th 5-year plan (2012‑17) will focus on health and recommend the strengthening of primary care as a key means to delivering this goal," the authors explain. "The development of a UK‑India partnership to strengthen primary care would enable the India UK CEO forum to contribute significantly to India's highest priority for health improvement as well as the enhancement of primary care in the UK NHS."

In an accompanying editorial, Lalit Dandona, Director of the Wellcome Trust Capacity Building Programme at the Public Health Foundation of India, and Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services at the Government of India, say it is essential that primary healthcare in India is strengthened "because many basic health indicators continue to be poor."

They add that a link-up "offers promise if it connects with existing efforts and stakeholders," but caution that those implementing it must involve medical and academic communities as well as private providers and policy-makers, and explore commercial opportunities "wisely."

And they stress that any partnership must be equal. "The Indian and UK parties will have different, probably complementary skills to offer to the partnership, which if harnessed with mutual respect would have the best chance of successful outcomes," they write.

By Caroline Price

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