By Kieran Andrew Khan
Last week the British High Commission’s Department for International Trade hosted a two-day UK Healthcare Market Visit, at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. The event included a number of health and business-related activities such as industry briefings, one-on-one networking opportunities, a High Tea with a welcome address by the UK High Commissioner to TT Tim Stew, and an exhibition by UK companies and their local counterparts.
The exhibition covered a range of products and services, including innovative new treatments and solutions for diabetic wounds and patient information software systems. The overall intention of the event was to further strengthen the bi-lateral relationship in healthcare shared between the two countries.
High Commissioner Stew elaborated, “Although in Britain we often display a strong sense of self-criticism and cynicism, we actually do some things really quite well. And healthcare is one of those areas. We are renowned for the excellence of our National Health Service (NHS). 2018 marks 70 years since the NHS was founded on here principles: that services would be provided free at the point of use; services would be financed from central taxation; and everyone was eligible for care, even people temporarily resident or visiting the country.”
The address to the specially-invited audience of healthcare and media representatives also noted that "the NHS delivers quality healthcare to over one million patients every 36 hours" which makes it the largest integrated healthcare system in the world. This experience is often and easily shared with governments and organisations around the world who, like the UK, must meet the challenges of a growing and aging population. To that end, the high commissioner also noted that, "Britain is home to five of the world’s top ten universities for clinical, pre-clinical and health subjects" and that these expert areas include the treatment of cancer, diabetes and mental health issues.”
In the case of TT, there exists a particularly special relationship alongside a long-shared history. High Commissioner Stew extolled on this. “In 2013, for example, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), a bilateral agreement between our governments, focused on the promotion of trade and investment in the healthcare sector of Trinidad and Tobago.” While the notion of an MoU may not excite people in the sphere of governance, he added, this particular agreement was an extensive one covering medical, technical and organisational planning of healthcare facilities; project management and construction supervision; turnkey solutions for healthcare facilities; equipping of hospitals with medical devices and IT systems; training and development and international healthcare accreditation which are essential elements to building a strong health service. This MoU would be further bolstered in 2018 by UK Export Finance (UKEF), which would be offering up to three billion pounds sterling of financial cover for the TT market to support healthcare projects.
The participants of the two-day event were also able to meet and learn from representatives from the legal field such as partner at JD Sellier & Associates, Hadyn-John Gadsby who covered the topic and legal aspects of conducting business in TT; representatives of the Ministry of Health; and Dr Edwin Bolastig and Dr James Hospedales from the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation and Caribbean Public Health Agency respectively.