Hospital trust plans to sell off site for housing

The former Whelley Hospital after its closureThe former Whelley Hospital after its closure
The former Whelley Hospital after its closure
Wigan's hospital trust is planning to sell off surplus property amid an ongoing row over the sale of NHS assets.

Data from the NHS shows the trust is planning to dispose of one - as yet undisclosed - site which it says it no longer needs for local healthcare provision which could accommodate dozens of badly-needed homes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unlike many other trusts, it has not given an estimated market value for the property.

The data does reveal however that it raised £4.4m from selling off the former Billinge and Whelley Hospital sites in recent years.

A further site has been declared as “no longer surplus”, after being previously put forward for disposal.

Independent health think tank the Nuffield Trust said it could be cause for concern if trusts were making decisions to sell sites too hastily, only to realise they are needed after all.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Between April 2017 and March 2018, NHS trusts in England declared over 1,670 acres of land and property as surplus to requirements, which have an estimated combined market value of more than £220m.

However, only 40 per cent of sites have been published with an estimated price, suggesting a total value of more than half a billion pounds.

Properties still in clinical use that are to be put up for sale include mental health clinics, ambulance centres, nursing homes and hospitals.

Labour has accused the Government of overseeing a “secret fire sale” of NHS assets in order to plug gaps in funding.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the Government says it is a necessary step towards solving the housing crisis.

Since 2011, the Department of Health and Social Care has been tasked with selling enough public land for more than 40,000 homes to be built, the vast majority of which will be on land owned by individual NHS trusts.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust estimated that around 40 homes could be provided on the land it wants to sell, although the NHS does not keep records on how many homes are actually built after the point of sale.

In 2017, an independent, Government-commissioned report on the NHS estate recommended a number of new incentives to encourage trusts to speed up land sales.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

These included increasing charges for those that don’t sell surplus property and blocking them from accessing funds for capital spending.

Capital spending is money trusts spend on maintaining, improving or acquiring buildings and other assets.

For the last four years the DoH has transferred money from this budget into the pot for day-to-day spending.

The NHS trade association, NHS Providers, says a lack of access to this cash has put trusts under pressure to raise funds by alternative means, including through land sales.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They have called on the Government to ensure trusts have the resources they need to maintain and improve their facilities.

The British Medical Association added that the drive to sell could compromise patient care.

They said it was vital to safeguard the NHS from “perverse short-term financial incentives” that could see the NHS estate reduced to a level insufficient to meet future needs.