Biotechnology and Healthcare
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Biotechnology has been identified as one of the main areas for enhanced cooperation. Leading Indian biotechnology companies are collaborating with clients across the UK and Europe. AstraZeneca has established an R&D Centre in Bangalore. GlaxoSmithKline and Ranbaxy have signed an agreement for joint research and development. Industry delegations from both countries visit each other regularly.

Healthcare is another potential area for cooperation. India has supplied doctors and nurses in substantial numbers for the UK's National Health Service (NHS), with about 26% of doctors employed in the NHS being of Indian origin. However, the new immigration rules announced earlier this year have had a negative impact on the employment of Indian doctors, many of who are unable to find jobs. Meanwhile, Indian pharmaceutical companies are marketing their products in the UK and many such as Nicholas Piramal have invested in production facilities in the UK. The UK is also a major source of medical equipment. The Indian Healthcare Federation comprising top Indian private sector healthcare organisations and super-speciality hospitals visited the UK in September 2003 to explore potential partnerships and opportunities. UK Trade and Investment also regularly sends teams of experts from the healthcare sector to India to explore possibilities of cooperation. The second India Medical Tourism Expo was held in London in June 2006. UK consumers are also showing interest in complementary & alternative medicine in which India has considerable strengths.

New regulations affecting Indian doctors

Approximately 30% of the doctors in the UK's National Health Services (NHS) are Indian. At the India-UK Round Table, it was estimated that Indian doctors contribute £4.5 billion to the UK economy, taking into account the cost of training for approximately 20,600 Indian doctors on the UK register. Every year a number of junior doctors from India used to write the PLAB examinations and were subsequently allowed to seek employment in junior posts in NHS trusts/ hospitals/ local councils under the "Permit Free Training" (PFT) scheme. Since there was no mechanism for regulating or relating the number of Indian doctors taking the PLABs to training vacancies, thousands of Indian doctors remained unemployed in the UK. However, the new immigration law announced in March 2006 by the UK abolished PFT. Now every NHS trust/hospital first has to ensure that there is no UK or EU national available. The new rules have added to their distress and several have been forced to leave for India.

High Commissioner took up the implications of the new immigration rules for Indian doctors very strongly with Lord Warner, Minister of State in Department of Health, and handed over an aide-memoir in this regard in June 2006. Lord Warner had promised to look into the matter but a decision is still awaited. In June 2006, the GMC of the UK cancelled all overseas PLAB examinations till January 2007. These issues have also been taken up with Members of Parliament in the UK. The need for suitable transitional arrangements for doctors already in the UK under previous regulations has been emphasized.

Jan 3, 2015


Biotechnology and Healthcare