Britain's NHS says up to US$1.5m has been spent by patients in Middle East for transplants from UK donors
Patients from the Middle East have controversially spent up to GBP£1m (US$1.5m) on acquiring replacement livers from donors in the UK, according to a newspaper report in Britain.
One of London's leading hospitals confirmed to the Daily Mail that 19 private overseas buyers had purchased organs in the last two years. King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said that many of the buyers came from Dubai, Kuwait and Libya.
The hospital, which is operated by Britain's government-administered health service, would not confirm how much had been paid for each transplant.
The newspaper said that there are currently 550 patients on the NHS's waiting list for livers, with one in six expected to die before they receive a transplant.
Patients from inside European countries are entitled to donated organs if they are suitable match, the Daily Mail said, but those from outside of the continent are only eligible if the organs are not wanted by patients in the UK.
A spokesperson for King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust told the newspaper that it complies with all "rules and regulations relating to liver transplant surgery and the allocation of organs".
A UK Department of Health spokesperson added that a private transplant was "in no way means getting an organ more quickly", adding there is "no evidence they stop NHS patients having transplants or reduce public confidence in donating".
Britain's NHS, which has faced savage budget cuts under the current UK government, last year unveiled plans to sell its brand rights around the world, including to the oil-rich Middle East, as part of a new venture to boost income.
The venture may see well-known hospitals such as Great Ormond Street become a worldwide franchise.
The government will launch Healthcare UK to act as a consultant for hospitals and potential overseas clients in the autumn. The body will also represent private healthcare firms such as Bupa and drug companies including GlaxoSmithKline.
The scheme, which has been put together by the Department of Health and the UK Trade and Investment department, is aimed at increasing funds into the health service.