A couple of recent India healthcare events have reminded me once again of something really important. That is the value of informal Indo-UK networks and people-to-people links. I believe it is a genuine force for good when developing partnerships with India.
The first event was a meeting held in Chennai at the end of last year, under the auspices of the Indo-British Health Initiative (IBHI). This brought together oncologists from the Christie Hospital in Manchester and a wide range of Indian counterparts to discuss locally administered cancer treatments.
Several clinical experts described their experiences and expertise and shared learning. This was followed by a successful live surgery on an Indian patient.
Beyond the technical and scientific presentations, there were a number of excellent sessions on highly topical subjects. Things like setting up a school of oncology in India, extended roles in oncology for nurse specialists and nurse clinicians, the concept of setting up and running a clinical trial, what defines quality and safety in healthcare in the UK, and effective communication with patients and their families.
The sessions were balanced by matching an Indian expert with a speaker from the Christie. And the high quality of the questions and debate illustrated how engaged the audience was and how important these subjects are for individuals and organisations looking to provide even better services.
Indeed, these topics are relevant across healthcare disciplines, not just in the area of oncology.
And the scope for UK centres of excellence - such as the Christie - to tie-up with leading Indian healthcare institutions (mainly, but not exclusively, in the private sector) will, I hope, be one of the features of an increase in collaborative Indo-UK partnerships.
The second series of events happened less than a week later in the decidedly cooler climate of Manchester.
In fact, there were two linked events held by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO).
The first was a seminar to discuss Indo-British collaboration, which was the brainchild of Prof Rajan Madhok, BAPIO’s chairman. After many excellent presentations, and an articulate summing-up by Prof Ged Byrne of Health Education England, the main conclusion was that the initiative to establish a Global Health Exchange in the north-west of England would be given added impetus.
The second function that weekend was the BAPIO Annual Conference, to which I was kindly invited by my friend, Dr Ramesh Mehta, BAPIO’s President. There were a number of superb presentations and the passion with which the delegates participated and the can-do attitude displayed throughout was very heartening to see.
The highlights for me were the keynote address by Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director for NHS England, on challenges and opportunities for the NHS and its future, and a riveting and sobering lecture on childhood obesity by Prof Terence Stephenson, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and chair-designate of the General Medical Council.
BAPIO’s ability to attract high-profile speakers and delegates from across the country is impressive. And the combined knowledge (of the UK and India) of BAPIO’s members makes it an important stakeholder for Healthcare UK.
The above two events (success stories, in fact) are perfect examples of the strength and depth of the Indo-UK healthcare partnership.
Naturally, philanthropy and not-for-profit projects do an enormous amount of good, and I can’t think of a better country than India (apart from, perhaps, some sub-Saharan African countries) for the UK to develop long-term, sustainable partnerships with.
If some of these can spin-off successful commercial ventures, so much the better.
And I highly recommend a Masala Dosa at the Sai Spice restaurant in Chorlton. I was taken there by my friend, Dr Selvasekar, and can confidently say that it is the best dosa I have had anywhere outside of South India.