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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Government accused of secret asset-strip as NHS sees 'huge rise' in land being sold

Written by Lizzy Buchan

The Government has been accused of secretly stripping hospitals of their assets to plug financial gaps as new analysis shows the amount of NHS land considered for sale has more than doubled in the past year.

Some 543 plots of NHS land totalling 1,332 hectares were declared as surplus to requirements in 2016/17 compared with 418 plots of 545.7 hectares the previous year, according to analysis commissioned by Labour of the annual round up of NHS Surplus Land.

It found that 117 sites deemed surplus were still being used for clinical or medical purposes, while data has been held back for more than half of the total area - 734 hectares over 63 sites - due to "sensitivity issues", prompting concern about the "blanket sell off" of sites currently being used for patient care.

Of the sites declared, there were 48 plots with a market value of more than £1 million.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (pictured) warned against a "fire sale" of NHS land and called for the Government to publish its response to a review by Sir Robert Naylor into maximising the revenue from NHS property.

He told The Independent: "Crumbling hospitals are in desperate need of investment for repair and renewal. But government must provide that investment, not strip hospitals of their assets and force them into a fire sale.

"There has been a huge rise in the amount of NHS land available for sale this year, but for more than half of it the Government are keeping the details secret and refusing to fully answer reasonable questions.

"It all adds to the suspicion that ministers are drawing up secret plans for a fire sale of valuable NHS assets to plug the black hole in their finances.

"This Government's refusal to fund the health service has seen standards of care for patients drop and has seen NHS building and upgrade works pushed back.

"The NHS needs an urgent injection of funding to make up for years of Tory underfunding, but the answer is not a blanket sell-off of sites which are currently being used for patient care."

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Theresa May stated her support for the Naylor Review, which was published in March.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "In order to provide vital funds for the NHS to spend on patient care and free up space for much needed homes, we will continue with our ongoing efforts to help hospitals dispose of land they do not need."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.