Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page 5

Health secretary Alan Milburn told the NHS Confederation conference he was set to meet private healthcare providers from Europe and the US to discuss bringing clinical teams to Britain.

Companies involved are thought to include US providers Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare; German firm GerMedic; and Capio, based in Sweden.

Kaiser - a not-for-profit health maintenance organisation, which does in fact produce a surplus distributed to employee-shareholders - was the subject of a controversial article in the British Medical Journal comparing its performance and costs with the NHS.

Though the paper claimed that Kaiser achieved better performance at about the same cost, critics included Department of Health economist Clive Smee.

A spokesperson for GerMedic said the company was in negotiations with the DoH.

Other operators from France, Switzerland and Spain are also expected to be involved in the scheme.