• UH Birmingham joint venture opens Beijing office
  • Trust CEO travelled to China to meet “very influential person” to help “penetrate the Chinese market”
  • Opportunities include hospital construction, consultancy, and digital technology
  • Foundation trust’s joint venture is registered in Hong Kong, while its partner is registered in Switzerland

One of the country’s biggest trusts has opened an office in China, with the chief executive meeting with a “very influential person in Beijing”.

Papers that went to University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust’s board last month reveal then chief executive Dame Julie Moore and strategic operations director Kevin Bolger recently travelled to China to discuss business opportunities in the country.

These include consultancy services, export of the trust’s in house clinical software, and advising on the construction of new hospitals in China.

During the trip, the pair met with the chair of a Beijing general hospital and a representative of a Chinese university attached to 11 hospitals.

The papers said: “The chair is a very influential person who is now actively promoting the consultancy services [of] the trust… Without the endorsement of such an influential figure, it is difficult to penetrate the Chinese market. Following this meeting, the trust has been asked by another large, privately owned company to support the construction and design of several other hospitals in China. It was noted that in China hospitals are attached to universities. Hence, a further meeting took place with a representative of a university which has 11 hospitals attached to it, where it was discussed how Chinese nurses could become a more utilised workforce.”

A joint venture company set up by the trust, Innovating Global Health, has now opened an office in Beijing to “demonstrate the trust’s intent”.

UH Birmingham set up the joint venture, called Innovating Global Health China Ltd, in 2014 with another company, Innovating Global Health SA.

However, according to the trust’s annual accounts, it commenced trading last year.

Innovating Global Health China is registered in Hong Kong while Innovating Global Health SA is registered in Switzerland. New York based investment banker Debora Allen Guthrie is listed as a director on several company listings websites. 

The trust did not respond to HSJ’s questions regarding the joint venture or the recent trip to China.

The move comes as Healthcare UK launches another push to export more NHS services and expertise. In September, it announced a new “export catalyst” service, targeted specifically at trusts and other NHS bodies with export potential.

According to the organisation’s annual review, overall healthcare exports from the UK to China tripled to £363m in 2017-18, making it the UK’s single biggest healthcare market.

In July 2018, HSJ reported Northumbria Healthcare and the Christie FT were helping build 10 new hospitals in China as part of a Northumbria consortium.

Big teaching hospitals, particularly in London, have been setting up offshore business ventures, and sometimes private hospitals, for years, most notably in the United Arab Emirates.