Keep Our NHS Public will fight the selling of NHS land for private profit, use and rent unless the land sold really has no further public use.
The government’s plans to sell off NHS land to private developers as recommended by the Naylor Report are being pushed through ‘at speed’, ‘to help the NHS dispose of assets that are no longer required or fit for purpose’. This means NHS land could be sold off within weeks, and certainly well underway by the end of this year, in at least six areas of England.
Under the plan – dubbed ‘Project Phoenix’ by NHS England – private companies will work with the NHS to achieve the best market price for sales and the NHS will take a share of the profits. But the size of that share ‘is yet to be determined’. And there’s more. Sir Robert Naylor, author of the Report, was said to be ‘delighted’ on hearing the news that three private companies – Primary Health Properties, Octopus Healthcare and Assura – had put in bids totalling £3.3 billion to assist in the land sell-off. Under the Phoenix proposals, the NHS would then be liable to pay these firms rent on moving back into specially built premises on that land, in perpetuity.
Not surprisingly, the group has already claimed that ‘it had commissioned research that showed the NHS could save more than £270 million annually because the new premises would enable a reduction in non-urgent use of accident and emergency departments, remove pressure on walk in centres, and help increase GP care for the elderly’. If this sounds chillingly familiar, it is because it is: the same unrealistic set of assumptions has already been used to justify the building of PFI hospitals that have greatly reduced numbers of beds.
Keep Our NHS Public does not oppose the selling of NHS land where there are genuine reasons for believing it cannot be of further public use. But we strongly question the rationale behind this scheme, which has the hallmarks of yet another public-asset sell-off for quick profit to private companies, and oppose the sale of NHS land to private development when there are no assurances about how that land will be used after the sale. Not least when the rationale for pocketing rent from the NHS indefinitely even when that land retains a public purpose is based on shaky assumptions about providing care in the community. What can be guaranteed, however, is that the private companies selling off the NHS land will have a captive cash stream for decades to come from any rent they will be charging, but there are no guarantees the land will continue to be used by the NHS at all.
Handing over NHS land to a private developer should be a last, not a preferred, option – and should never be done to make up deficits in the NHS’s yearly budget, as this scheme plans to do. That’s on a par with being forced to sell your home to pay off debts: then you’re homeless. It is consistent with the view that the NHS is there to be sold off for profit where it can be and private companies are there to soak it up.
Keep Our NHS Public opposes this and we will fight these proposals. Please join us in the fight to stop this deliberate plundering of the NHS.