According to the London-based Financial Times, Manar al-Moneef of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority said Riyadh plans to privatise or outsource the management of 218 government-run hospitals.

A further 2,000 hospitals and clinics that are planned or under construction, will be administered by a fund to be set up by the Health Ministry.

US consultancy McKinsey & Company projects that healthcare spending in the Gulf will rise to nearly $60bn by 2025, up from $12bn in 2007. Government funding currently accounts for more than 75 per cent of this.