A new National Audit Office report says that NHS trusts need to be quicker and better about turning unwanted property into funds to provide healthcare.The NHS has one of the largest estates in Europe, valued at some 23 billion pounds.
In the three years to March 2000, NHS trusts sold at least 380 million pounds worth of surplus property, and it is intended to sell a further 700 million pounds worth by March 2003.
The average period to sell NHS property is two years, but the NAO calculates that if this could be cut by just six months it would mean 80 million pounds released that much quicker for alternative use.
The NAO also says there is room for better analysis of the impact on property of changing clinical practices. Its review of NHS property management activity revealed that a third of NHS trusts fail to review their property portfolio for surplus property and report it to their trust board annually, despite this practice being NHS guidance.
It also says that trusts could also benefit from working more closely with local planning authorities to obtain suitable planning permission as quickly as possible and maximise redevelopment value.
The NAO report makes twelve recommendations to improve handling and value obtained in disposing of surplus NHS trust property. These are primarily aimed at NHS Estates, an executive agency of the Department of Health, which provides the policy lead and detailed guidance on all aspects of estates management in the NHS.