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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

UAE looks to UK to expand burgeoning health care sector

At a meeting in London the two countries pledged further collaboration

<p>Mohamed Hamad Al Hameli, Acting Undersecretary of Department of Health, Abu Dhabi at a signing ceremony with Lord O&#39;Shaughnessy, the UK&#39;s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health at the UAE Healthcare &amp; Life Sciences Forum in London. Stephen Lock/ The&nbsp;National</p>
Mohamed Hamad Al Hameli, Acting Undersecretary of Department of Health, Abu Dhabi at a signing ceremony with Lord O'Shaughnessy, the UK's Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health at the UAE Healthcare & Life Sciences Forum in London. Stephen Lock/ The National

The UK and the UAE announced a new strategic partnership on Tuesday to turn the UAE into a global leader for health care.

A meeting of leading officials, industry experts and investors in London saw representatives from both the UK and UAE government sign two memorandums of understanding to collaborate more closely on health care regulation and managed fertility programmes.

As the UAE reduces its economic dependency on oil as part of its transformative Vision 2021 programme, government leaders are expanding seven sectors of the economy, namely: renewable energy, transport, education, technology, water, space and health.

“Our diversification strategy is set to accelerate the economy further,” said UAE ambassador to the UK, HE Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui.

“The UAE is often seen as a hydrocarbon-based economy but it is to our credit that we have successfully reduced the contribution of oil to the national economy. Oil now accounts for less than 30 per cent. There is a strategy to further limit dependence on oil to 20 per cent by 2021.”

As an established global leader in health care, the UK has already established outposts of some of its most successful hospitals and research centres in the UAE, including psychiatric outpatient clinic Maudsley Health Abu Dhabi, two branches of Moorfields Eye Hospital and three units of Imperial College London Diabetes Centre. King’s College Hospital has a clinic in Abu Dhabi and a 100-bed multi-speciality hospital coming up in Dubai.

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As the UK prepares to leave the European Union in 2019, it is looking to further its connections with economies in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Encouraging further British investment in the UAE, the UK’s parliamentary undersecretary of state for health Lord O’Shaughnessy said: “There is an opportunity to develop the relationship that already exists in health care and life sciences between our two countries and turn that into a truly special relationship.

“The UAE are already the UK’s fourth largest market outside Europe – only China, Hong Kong and the US are larger. We know the economic relationship is there and the relationship of people is there with the significant number of British people living in the UAE. The potential to build on these collaborations is significant.”

In Abu Dhabi, which is a growing cultural centre in the region, the population, which currently stands at around 3 million, is projected to increase to 5.7 million by 2020.

“We have about 5,000 beds, 60 hospitals and 600 clinics/centres. In 12 years’ time that will need to be coping with the doubling of the population,” explained Dr Omar Najm, senior adviser to the department of health in the Emirate. “That presents an opportunity in itself.”

<p>Dr Omar Najm, Senior Adviser, Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, speaking at the UAE Healthcare &amp; Life Sciences Forum in London. Stephen Lock/ The National</p>
Dr Omar Najm, Senior Adviser, Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, speaking at the UAE Healthcare & Life Sciences Forum in London. Stephen Lock/ The National

Abu Dhabi launched a major drive earlier this year to attract more medical tourists to the city by highlighting areas of medical excellence offered, which cannot be found anywhere else in the region.

“We want to establish Abu Dhabi as a medical tourism hub,” said Mohamed Hamad Al Hameli, acting undersecretary of the department of health in Abu Dhabi.

“We want to change the health care system from being a burden on the government to being an economic driver for the country,” he added.

Mr Al Hameli also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to tackle the diabetes epidemic in the UAE through initiatives which focus on prevention.

One in five people in the UAE suffer with diabetes, the most prevalent being Type 2, which is linked to lifestyle choices.

“We want people to understand how important it is to eat healthy,” said Mr Al Hameli. “We now certify food in the country in restaurants and airlines, including through a collaboration with Etihad.”