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Trusts able to expand estate ownership, Government announces

NHS building

By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
31 May 2019

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NHS trusts and foundation trusts will now be able to request transfers of NHS buildings owned by property companies, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.

Health minister Stephen Hammond said the new guidance on NHS property ownership – which allows trusts to bid for properties on their estate – will help trusts make decisions based on their population’s needs and accelerate improvements to frontline services.

Following the abolishment of primary care trusts in 2013, several properties were transferred to NHS Property Services (NHSPS) and Community Health Partnerships (CHP).

All trusts can now submit a formal business process for each of the properties on their estate currently owned by NHSPS and CHP, which the DHSC believes will help trusts ‘bring about a significant programme of investment or a change in services’.

In their business cases, trusts will need to specify:

  • How their request aligns with and benefits their local STP plans
  • How it will bring value for money
  • That they understand any liabilities associated with the asset
  • How the new ownership model will be funded
  • How they manage the site operationally

The DHSC said that only properties that are ‘expected to remain in long-term NHS use are eligible for transfer’.

NHS trusts won’t be able to apply for premises that have been identified as surplus land by CCGs or facilities that are emptied under the vacant space handback scheme – an NHSPS project that allows owners to release properties they no longer need.

The guidance said: ‘The receiving trust will become landlord to any third-party occupiers and, having regard to the nature of any existing occupiers and their terms of occupation, will be required to accept appropriate terms for the continued occupation of such occupiers and would be expected to document them in an appropriate occupancy agreement.’

The DHSC told Healthcare Leader that there might be cases in which trusts can apply for the ownership of ‘multi occupied buildings’ of which GPs are tenants. However, GPs themselves are not able to apply for ownership of these properties as the guidance is for trusts only.

West Suffolk Foundation Trust and Dorset Healthcare Foundation Trust have already filed their business cases for the respective transfer of Newmarket Hospital and Boscombe and Springbourne Health Centre from NHSPS.

Commenting on the guidance, health minister Stephen Hammond said: ‘[This change] will support trusts to invest in development and deliver the long-term plan ambition for more joined-up and coordinated care, backed by an extra £33.9bn per year by 2023/24 to secure the future of the health service.’

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said the organisation welcomes the new guidance but that ‘it will not solve the wider problems of trusts accessing capital funding’.

She added: ‘We need to see immediate action on this. This year there appears to be a large gap to bridge between what trusts say they want to spend on capital and the NHS capital spending limit.’

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