Exclusive: Labour Urges Halt To 'Short Sighted' NHS Land Sell-Off - Rugby and Daventry Radio Station Midlands UK            

Exclusive: Labour Urges Halt To ‘Short Sighted’ NHS Land Sell-Off

Written by on September 8, 2020

Article Published on Tuesday September 8, 2020 7:00 AM by

Exclusive: Labour Urges Halt To ‘Short Sighted’ NHS Land Sell-Off

Ministers face calls to block a “fire sale” of NHS land to private developers amid fears a second wave of Covid-19 and growing demand for other health services could see hospitals run out of space. 

A total of 626 plots of land or buildings, worth potentially over £1bn, have been earmarked for sale by trusts, according to a report for the government by NHS Digital.

The government told HuffPost UK this week the list had been compiled before the pandemic, and that trusts would be able to reclassify land that was now in use. NHS bosses said 131 of the sites listed as “surplus” were actually in use.

It comes amid cost pressures on the health service and as Boris Johnson’s administration pledges to help developers “build, build, build” in the wake of the pandemic. 

Now Labour is urging the government to step in and halt the sell-off so medics can respond to “ballooning” waiting lists for non-Covid care.

Campaign group We Own It has called the continued bid to flog assets “truly disgusting” and “short-sighted” during the pandemic. 

In July, trusts warned that they needed more space, equipment and staff to deal with a growing backlog of demand for treatments such as cancer care. 

Experts also fear a second spike in cases of coronavirus, coupled with the annual wave of flu infections, could overwhelm the NHS this winter.

But starved of alternative sources of funding, the freedom to sell land could leave some trusts little option but to offload it just to make ends meet.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, told HuffPost UK the prime minister should intervene now.

He said: “The big challenge now is to shift the NHS to provide Covid and non-Covid care at the same time. With concerns waiting lists could hit 10m by Christmas, we need a serious plan to get services up and running.

“These sales should be halted and plans drawn up to fix ballooning waiting lists instead.”

Jonathan Ashworth  Labour's shadow health secretary

While not every building or plot of land in the annual report is listed with a market value, 110 are said to be worth almost £240m, meaning the overall value may be over £1bn. 

Cat Hobbs from the campaign group We Own It echoed Labour’s concern.

She said: “It’s truly disgusting that, after everything our NHS has done for us, Boris Johnson’s priority is undermining hospitals by [encouraging them to] sell off their land. He tells the public he cares about the NHS but he’s actually privatising it piece by piece in secretive deals.

“The government must listen to NHS trusts – they need more space and equipment to deal with the backlog from coronavirus, not less. Labour is absolutely right to take a stand on this hugely damaging policy. 

“We support the call for Boris Johnson to save lives this winter by stopping this short-sighted sell off of NHS land. Halt the fire sale immediately. Have some respect for our NHS – build it up, don’t knock it down. Protect our NHS so people can get the care they desperately need.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Many trusts are now reviewing the use of their estate and can keep land they previously said was surplus if they now need it for clinical purposes.

“The NHS can sell land that is no longer required or unsuitable for modern clinical care, so trusts are not burdened with the additional cost of maintaining redundant facilities and can reinvest the money in modern and upgraded facilities.

“We are investing billions to deliver 40 new hospitals around the country and ensure the NHS estate is fit for the future, including £300m to upgrade A&Es and help trusts continue to deliver safe and accessible services throughout winter.”

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Exclusive: Labour Urges Halt To ‘Short Sighted’ NHS Land Sell-Off
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