Former Conservative health secretary Ken Clarke is this week leading a trade delegation to China which aims to promote “world-beating” UK healthcare expertise to the fast-growing Chinese market.

The delegation  - the biggest-ever from the UK health and social care sectors to visit China - includes 38 companies, universities and training hospitals. Mr Clarke, who is now “minister without portfolio” in the coalition cabinet, will lead the 50-member group to Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Zhejiang and Shanghai over the week, which is due to see the signing of a number of government-to-government and business-to-business agreements, and the first meeting of a new China-UK Healthcare Working Group.

Mr Clarke will also, with China’s Health Minister Li Bin, open a joint conference on dementia, marking the launch of a new UK/Chinese collaboration to tackle the disease.

“The British healthcare system is the best in the world, and there will be important export opportunities as China invests huge sums of money in its healthcare system over the years ahead,” said Mr Clarke, speaking ahead of the delegation’s arrival in China.

“Healthcare and life sciences are among the strongest sectors of the British economy and our standards are held in high regard overseas. From building a hospital to training the staff to building the IT and management systems, the UK has the expertise that China needs as it builds a healthcare system that is projected to be spending a trillion dollars every year by 2020,” the Minister added.

This week’s trade delegation follows a three-day visit in to China in late November by Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, during which they witnessed the final signing of UK/Chinese healthcare agreements worth over £120 million to the UK economy. The deals included a contract for Sinophi Healthcare for hospital management and hospital investment plus Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) covering joint working in the areas of elderly nursing and dementia.

Government export promotion agency Health UK also signed an MoU with Chinese partners aimed at unlocking commercial deals for UK companies in areas such as primary care services, integrated care and education and training.

Speaking on December 2, Mr Cameron said that the Sinophi deal “highlights the enormous opportunity that the Chinese healthcare market presents for British healthcare firms – set to grow by $400 million by 2017. I hope we will see many more partnerships and deals like this for British businesses in this market.”