Honourable President, Dr Maharaj Kishan Bhan; Honourable Director T S Ravikumar, Distinguished Dean Dr S Mahadevan.
Thank you so much for that very warm welcome, or perhaps given this august institution’s origins as L’École de Médicine de Pondichérry I should say, merci fortement pour cet bienvenu tres chaleureux!
I am deeply honoured to be here today. Honoured because I know I follow a number of great names on this stage, including the current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Professor M S Swaminathan. Honoured because of JIPMER’s global reputation as one of India’s foremost Medical Schools. And especially honoured to be invited during JIPMER’s 50th Anniversary.
We have a special relationship with JIPMER. JIPMER was the first Indian institution to sign an MoU with HealthcareUK. And like most UK hospitals, 99.5% of medical care is provided free. We are very excited about JIPMER’s future ambitions including for an International School of Public Health (JISPH) and new centres like those for trauma care, allied health sciences, and research.
I also want to admit how much I admire what you all do. Healthcare is important. I do not mean in the slightly narrow sense of primary care or public health or education or training or research. I mean in the widest sense. Like diplomacy, healthcare is a people business, aimed at making people’s lives better. That principle must be at the heart of healthcare. After all, healthcare is about healing people, not ailments. Every day, the British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reads at least one letter from someone whose NHS care has gone wrong.
The UK/India relationship matters. We remain historically intertwined – as Great Britain’s first-ever Indian-origin Ambassador in Chennai, I am evidence of how far that relationship has evolved. The UK not only remains committed to India: my government is investing heavily in her future, investing money and people while in other countries we look to reduce costs after the economic crisis. Our companies and institutions are following suit.
Our Prime Minister publicly stated our support for Indian membership of a revived UN Security Council in November last year. We recently announced a Newton Fund of £375 million over 5 years to support science and innovation partnerships with emerging powers, with at least £50 million set aside for India.
The UK is the third largest investor in India. India invests more in the UK than in the rest of the EU combined, including the largest UK manufacturing employer – Tata – with 45,000 jobs. There are currently 30,000 Indian students studying in the UK. This year my government will offer more than 1,000 scholarships to Indian students, with many more to come. The UK India Education Research Initiative has supported more than 1047 partnerships since its inception in leadership, innovation, skills and student mobility.
Jointly funded research which was worth £1 million just 5 years ago is now worth £150 million. RCUK India has facilitated more than 80 high-quality, high impact UK-India research projects involving over 90 industry partners.
India and the UK need and rely on each other for their security and their prosperity. In that way, we are family. At the heart of the bilateral relationship lies co-operation in health – it is always a theme of the many senior UK visitors including that of the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales’ visit to India last year.
We know exactly what we want: we want to be India’s partner-of-choice in healthcare. And it’s happening.
Last year, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad signed an overarching healthcare memorandum of understanding between the UK and India with the UK Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt to build on existing partnerships and create new ones. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has signed an MoU with India’s Department of Health Research in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on evidence based healthcare and technology assessment.
In 2012, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), launched an online Indian edition in 2012. The UK and the Indian Health Sector Skills Councils are working together to develop the skills and competencies of the healthcare workforce. The Wellcome Trust has committed around £150 million toward health and health research projects in India and earlier this year, the UK Nursing and Midwifery council visited India to strengthen partnerships in the area of nursing.
Let me be clear: we’re talking about a partnership. We want to share our learning and our mistakes with India. And we want to learn as much as we can from her. Where UK’s scientists have won 34 Nobel prizes for medical research, India is a hub for globally respected economic healthcare innovations.
What is it that we hope to offer India’s most reputed medical education, research and training institutions? I’ll offer a few examples:
The market for medical robotics is growing by 50% annually worldwide. That trend is creating better solutions for patients. iLIMB is the world’s most dexterous, multi-fingered, anthropomorphic robotic prosthetic hand that has been fitted on several amputees. It was developed by British SME, Touch Bionics, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.
The UK is at the forefront of regenerative medicine. In UK cardiovascular centres, heart muscle tissue is being grown and can be seen to beat when it reaches critical mass. We can grow new tissue that removes distinctive features that cause rejection by the host, saving the lives of patients who are unable to take drugs that their tissues reject. This technology is now being used to treat eye disease and Parkinson’s.
By 2018, the UK Government intends to move completely from paper to paperless? Why? Because well-documented and accurate medical records are fundamental to quality healthcare. UK companies are evolving innovative clinical IT solutions to embed state-of-the-art speech recognition capabilities into clinical applications.
These are just a few examples of what we can offer India.
And what can we learn from India? Plenty.
The UK healthcare environment is changing rapidly, with significant medical, technological and scientific advances coupled with changes in the demands on the healthcare system, higher patient expectations, a growing and ageing population and increasingly complex medical conditions.
India offers answers. We are keen to learn from India’s complexity and scale. There are lessons for us in how care is delivered now more cheaply and effectively than the NHS often can.
We want to learn from the low-cost innovation that India is known for, that is happening in all manner of Institutions across India all the time. We want our research partnership to deliver new patient-focused solutions that are cost-effective and improve the lives of global citizens, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Ours is the first health service in the world which introduced a legal duty to promote research. The UK Department of Health provides nearly £1 billion a year to help fund health research projects in the NHS, research centres and facilities in areas like tissue disease and degeneration, mental health lifestyles affecting health, environment and health, ageing, antimicrobial resistance, maternal health, childhood under-nutrition and infectious diseases, diagnostics, and affordable healthcare.
We want Indian-trained doctors to continue to practice and hone their skills in the UK, and we welcome the fact that so many are now returning to India to share that learning. UK doctors also have much to learn from their colleagues here, and I am pleased that we are seeing significant increases in travel in this direction, too.
And we believe that, in the land that brought forth Sushruta and Charaka, there is much we can learn from other medical disciplines including Ayurveda. I know that this is a theme that is close to the heart of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
We are good partners – UK scientists work with the world - nearly half their papers are written with partners abroad. One of the strongest university systems in the world supports this great research base.
Importantly, this is not a partnership of the future: it is thriving now. We support literally hundreds of partnerships between Indian and UK Institutions in all areas of healthcare. As an example, we are working with JIPMER to build partnerships with UK institutions including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London School of Economics (LSE), TPP System One, the London Ambulance Service and NICE International.
I look forward to you all becoming important delivery partners and ambassadors for that partnership, using the skills that you have learnt here, and the skills that you have yet to learn, to build an ever more sustainable UK-India partnership that demonstrably and sustainably makes the world we live in a much better place.
Congratulations to you all, and thank you for your kind attention.
The British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai, Bharat Joshi delivered this speech at JIPMER’s 5th Convocation and Golden Jubilee celebrations at Puducherry on 26 April. Mr Joshi and Dr Maharaj Kishan Bhan, President JIPMER also presented awards to the graduates.
Senior visitors from the UK to India last year include Prime Minister David Cameron, ex-Health Minister and now Defence Minister, Anna Soubry, Cabinet Minister Kenneth Clarke, Professor The Lord Kakkar, and the Department of Health Permanent Secretary Una O’Brien.
Media queries: contact Anita Mawdsley, Press & Public Affairs Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Chennai. Mob: +91-96001-99956