One of America’s leading hospital groups, which is known for treating world leaders and celebrities, has set its sights on the UK and the lucrative opportunities that could emerge if the NHS is opened up to further private-sector involvement.
The Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic is regularly ranked among the best hospitals in the US. It has clear international ambitions – with a state‑of-the-art 22-storey hospital opening in Abu Dhabi within weeks.
The Independent can reveal that the clinic has hired a British firm of consultants to help it explore potential work in the UK following May’s general election should the role of private companies providing services to the NHS be expanded.
Although the bulk of the clinic’s specialist hospitals are located in a mile-long campus on the edge of Cleveland, the US health group announced two years ago that it was also exploring the idea of opening facilities in China, India and Turkey. It also has operations in Florida and Nevada in the US, and in Toronto in Canada,
The clinic’s targeting of the UK is a reflection of the international interest in the already-heated pre-election debate on the NHS and what its future holds.
According to the health think-tank the King’s Fund, NHS purchase of private acute hospital care has risen steeply in recent years.
Private hospitals made under 10 per cent of their revenues from NHS contracts in 2004, compared with 26 per cent in 2011. If competition rules were changed by a future government intent on a radical redesign of NHS, the value of private-sector business deals could rise further.
The scale of the clinic’s assets and operations means any decision to launch operations in the UK could have a “game-changing” impact on the private supply of state-funded healthcare.
The Independent understands that the clinic hired a leading UK firm of consultants to look into future UK health markets and identify investment opportunities.
Asked to comment on their interests in Britain and the hiring of London consultants, the Cleveland Clinic said it was “often approached to consider business opportunities around the world” but had “no other commitments at this time” beyond the launch of its Abu Dhabi hospital.
The US hospital group has an operating revenue approaching $7bn (£4.6bn) with a cash and investment portfolio close to $6bn.
Two years ago it announced additional spending of $3.3bn over the next five years. Since the clinic was founded in Ohio in 1923, it has become a favourite of the global elite. Previous reported patients include numerous Saudi monarchs and crown princes, the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, King Hussein of Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Liza Minnelli, and the golfer Jack Nicklaus.
The new facility in Abu Dhabi is the flagship of the clinic’s international expansion programme.
The new hospital includes 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It will have centres that specialise in the treatment of heart disease, neurology, eye and respiratory medicine. There will also be emergency medicine facilities.
Cleveland hospitals have pioneered many medical developments including the first coronary artery bypass and the first face transplant in the US, and the clinic identified the gene linked to familial coronary artery disease.
The clinic already has connections with London. In 2010 it announced that it had hired one of the world’s leading architects, Lord Foster, to help it produce a 20-year master plan for its Cleveland campus.
The mile-long campus: Cleveland Clinic’s HQ
The 41 hospitals and medical centres on the 140-acre site of the Cleveland Clinic headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, have the architectural authority of an international financial district.
The InterContinental Hotel and its Suites complex suggest this is no ordinary gathering of health centres. The Crile Building, the largest outpatient facility on the campus, looks like a major airport arrivals terminal.
The Cole Eye Institute and the Miller Heart and Vascular Institute are housed in buildings that could have been delivered with a blank cheque that went over-budget.
The Glickman Tower’s Urological and Kidney Unit wouldn’t look out of place in Chicago’s high-rise heaven, and the curved-glass façade of the Taussig Cancer Institute suggests exactly what is happening inside – high-value care. The entire campus is what medicine looks like when tight budgets aren’t involved.
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