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News archive - July 2015

Healthcare estate front and centre of post-election talks

Healthcare estate front and centre of post-election talks

Renewed calls for the NHS to secure operational efficiencies at the same time as improving patient care mean the healthcare estate is front and centre of post-election discussions.

According to data submitted to the Department of Health in 2014, just over 650 hectares of NHS trust and foundation trust estate - the equivalent of around 910 football pitches - is surplus, or potentially surplus, to requirements. In addition, NHS Property Services lists 59 sites, mostly primary care facilities, as available for disposal.

The King’s Fund estimates the surplus land immediately saleable has a value of around £700m. Vacant or underused estate that could be released in the medium term is worth approximately another £700m; and there is potential for more cash to be generated in the long term.

However, there are some practical obstacles to unlocking the value in surplus estate and, more worryingly, little incentive for organisations to release land and buildings if they are unable to retain the proceeds locally. Currently, foundation trusts for the most part can keep capital receipts generated by the sale of land, but this money often goes towards service development, rather than transformation.

Lillie Dunn, a fellow in health policy at The King’s Fund, said: “There may be some innovative approaches to generating revenue from the estate, but much more work is needed to fully understand the nature and scale of these opportunities.”

If increased focus is placed on enhancing current building stock, this will be welcome news for the medical construction sector after recent months saw a cooling in activity.

Graham Roberts, chief executive of property developer, Assura, said it was likely a more-integrated approach would now be developed.

“There were a number of encouraging features of the NHS Five Year Forward View, which have been supported throughout the Conservative manifesto: namely the integration of health and social care and the increased investment in primary care resources,” he added.

“It is by creating multifunctional health hubs that we can address the broadest-possible spectrum of patient needs and move towards a more-efficient health service.”

This is supported by Edmund Stubbs, a healthcare researcher at community research body, Civitas. He said: “To give some hope for the future sustainability of the NHS, healthcare policies need to move away from flashing blue lights and multi-bed hospitals and instead focus on individuals’ lifestyles and care in the community.

“We need to ensure people avoid becoming ill in the first place or that, when unwell, they have their conditions well managed to avoid medical emergencies and hospitalisations which put patients in danger and cost the NHS large amounts of money.”

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