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Health policy


This document sets out British Council policy in health and is based on consultation with sponsors and UK partners. It shows how the Council's health work supports public diplomacy.

The aim of the Council's work in health is to enhance Britain's international reputation and competitiveness by promoting an understanding of UK health provision by key practitioners and policy makers overseas.

UK capability in the sector

  • Highly regarded clinical training for doctors with opportunities for overseas doctors and potential for examination-exempt licensing allowing hands-on skills acquisition.

  • Unique system of primary health care that is of increasing interest to other cost-conscious health care providers.

  • Well-developed system of basic and post-basic nursing training as well as training for allied health professions.

  • Recent experience of major reform of centrally funded health service including management training of interest to many countries.

  • Large and successful pharmaceutical industry based on industrial and academic research.

  • National Health Service (NHS) initiatives in quality improvement of health services including evidence-based medicine and health technology assessment.

  • Highly developed academic institutions (including two long-established schools of tropical medicine) with major research and teaching capabilities and highly experienced staff.

  • Major non-governmental organisations in health research (eg Wellcome and cancer charities) and development (eg Save the Children Fund, Oxfam).

  • Expertise in public and environmental health and epidemiology.

Sponsor's objectives

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

The Council's work in health contributes to FCO objectives by demonstrating British excellence in the health sector as well as promoting and maintaining exchanges and partnerships with influential overseas partners.

British Council strategy and objectives in health

The health sector is a major part of the UK economy expressed in employment and turnover terms. It is neither possible nor desirable for the British Council to be involved in all areas.

Those areas which the our Health Advisory Committee agrees are most important to partners and recipient countries are:

  • clinical medicine, nursing and paramedical disciplines
  • primary care and general practice
  • medical research, both basic and clinical
  • health sector reform, management and quality


  • to create awareness of British clinical and research excellence and organisational models
  • to develop sustainable partnerships and alliances in the UK and overseas
  • to promote the use of UK goods and services.

Contribution to sponsors' objectives
  • British Council training activity in the health sector now brings many overseas professionals to Britain. It is increasingly recognised that UK work experience is a potent contributor to subsequent purchases of UK health products.
  • Health consultants work overseas spreading knowledge of UK skills, contributing to development and generating income. UK input influences thinking and practice as well encouraging the spread of considered analysis rather than dogma.
  • Research workers form international links which increase their resources and accelerate progress.
  • The health sector generates income estimated to be £220 million annually from overseas private patients coming to the UK.
  • Health sector work, particularly in nursing, can contribute to women's development in countries where direct involvement is not possible. Nursing is a largely female profession; raising the status of nursing raises the status of women. In more conservative countries this can be done when direct gender activity is politically unacceptable.

British Council resources in health


  • Supporting UK efforts to forge scientific co-operation agreements and assisting in the quality assessment of joint research fund bids.
  • Encouraging more health professionals to train in the UK by expanding client-funded training services for doctors and nurses.
  • Supporting the marketing of health sector reform experience through study tours, seminars, identification of consultants and project management.
  • A knowledge of the UK partner resource with a particular emphasis on resources for consultancy and training in health sector reform.
  • Working with UK partners to facilitate access to UK resources in the health sector through information services and export promotion activities.
  • Ensuring that Council-sponsored health work is carried out to high quality standards.

Means of delivery

  • The Council's Health Advisory Committee has been constructed to represent the best of UK health resources.
  • A network of British Council overseas offices represents a broad and knowledgeable contact base with extensive experience.
  • An expanding office automation and electronic communication network.
  • A programme of international seminars and a British Council journal, The British Medical Bulletin, which is hosted on the Royal Society of Medecine website.

Questions and Comments

Please send questions and comments on this policy paper to:

Director (Health)
The British Council
Manchester M15 4AA

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