CHINA'S healthcare reform, one-child policy and ageing population have opened up more opportunities for foreign medical instrument makers and suppliers, says a British healthcare specialist. Michael Rosenberg, chairman of British-based Eastkings which offers specialist advice to hospitals, said: 'The prospect for sending to China medical instruments, I believe, is very positive but only to those companies which are prepared to make the investment in time and resources. And time means money. 'They must also address the issue of servicing and maintenance, which is very important.' Mr Rosenberg a member of a delegation from Britain's healthcare industry, is on a trade mission to Hong Kong. China relied heavily on foreign companies for servicing and maintenance, he said. He said according to China's Ministry of Health figures the import of medical instruments totalled US$600 million a year. This was a bit low, Mr Rosenberg said, and the actual figure was more likely to be between $900 million and $1 billion. 'What is comforting is that figure is growing about 10 to 15 per cent a year and will continue to grow at that rate and maybe a little higher,' Mr Rosenberg said. If not for more joint ventures being set up to manufacture medical instruments, the growth could have been about 25 to 30 per cent. He said healthcare reforms introduced in China would actually generate more demand for medical instruments rather than reducing the need for them. When the British Government introduced national healthcare services in 1948, people thought expenses on medical instruments would be greatly reduced. The fact was that expenditure on medical instruments in 1948 was only 'a tiny fraction' of the GBP35 billion spent annually these days, he said. This was due to longer life expectancy. 'As people live longer, they develop Western diseases such as cancer, liver problems and heart disease. So the longer you live, the more likely you would need medical instruments,' Mr Rosenberg said. 'It's common throughout the world and is the same in China and Hong Kong. 'In the West, if you take the average life expectancy [as] about 75 to 80 years old, 85 to 90 per cent of expenditure on your health will take place in the last eight years in your life.' As China adopted a one-child policy, parents would naturally want to have the best treatment for their children to ensure they survived, warranting a higher demand for medical instruments such as special baby incubators. Other positive factors for the industry included Beijing's willingness to acquire new technology and pay for it and the Ministry of Health's readiness in spending more money to upgrade the nation's hospital system. On setting up joint ventures for the manufacture of medical instruments in China, Mr Rosenberg said: 'It's more difficult, but for very large multinational companies it's a route that they should seriously consider.' 'The prospect of setting up joint ventures in medical instruments is there but it's a much more long-term prospect.' Foreign companies were extremely cautious in setting up joint ventures in medical instruments for fear of suffering from the loss of business likely to occur through the problems with intellectual property rights, he said.