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Revealed: The 60 acres of NHS land in our region which could be sold off

PUBLISHED: 07:30 24 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:08 24 June 2017

Some of the sites identified in the NHS Digital surplus land data. Photos: Archant

Some of the sites identified in the NHS Digital surplus land data. Photos: Archant

Archant

More than 60 acres of NHS land in the region could be sold off, after health bosses identified sites which could be used to reach the government’s targets for housing.

The former Meadowlands unit, in Norwich, where surplus land has been identifed in NHS Digital figures. Photo: Google Streetview The former Meadowlands unit, in Norwich, where surplus land has been identifed in NHS Digital figures. Photo: Google Streetview

NHS Digital released data detailing areas of land and buildings which had already been sold - as well as which sites could be put up for sale.

In this area, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), James Paget University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC) were included in the round-up. But the potential sale value for many sites was missing and some entries represented only a small area of the total site.

The data showed how in the last financial year NSFT sold the 1.7ac Meadowlands in-patient unit site in Yarmouth Road, Norwich for £113,000 - as well as the Highlands 0.19ac site, also in Yarmouth Road. However it is not clear how much this was sold for. A former hostel, in Drayton High Road, was also sold by the trust for £210,000.

It is hoped around £800,000 could be made by selling 5.4acs at Great Yarmouth’s Northgate Hospital. However the site has been on the market for two years without a buyer.

A number of other NSFT sites are also being considered for sale, including 31acs at Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich, 2.9acs at the Airey Close site, in Lothingland, and just over half an acre at Meridian House, in Lowestoft. In the data, it shows an estimated 415 houses could be built on the NSFT sites, although figures were not available for all.

Julie Cave, NSFT director of finance, said: “The trust, like much of the NHS, is looking at all of its estate to ensure our buildings are fit for purpose, safe and accessible environments for our service users and staff. This is to ensure that we do not use important NHS resources to maintain spare land, empty properties, or those which are no longer appropriate for modern clinical services. A number of our properties are being reviewed and considered for possible sale, the money from which we would reinvest into maintaining or upgrading buildings where we can provide a safe and suitable environment for our service users.

She said should a decision be taken to sell any properties which currently offered clinical services, more suitable and accessible accommodation would be provided and service users, staff and carers would be consulted. She added: “The majority of buildings we are reviewing are not offering frontline services.”

James Paget University Hospitals Trust could put the former Lowestoft Hospital 1.75ac site up for sale. It closed in December 2016 and board papers released ahead of the trust’s board of directors meeting next week recommend the site be sold.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust director of finance Julie Cave. Picture: Courtesy of NSFT Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust director of finance Julie Cave. Picture: Courtesy of NSFT

MORE: Lowestoft Hospital set to close its doors as part of health service restructuring

The papers said: “Any capital receipt generated from the disposal of the site will be reinvested through the trust’s capital programme for the benefit of all patients across Great Yarmouth and Waveney. Key schemes requiring urgent investment are the A&E upgrade to supplement the central £1.0m funding recently announced for the trust and the ward refurbishment programme.”

At NCHC, around £2m could be made from selling 1.3acs at Easton Grange Child Development Unit, Norwich, which could be marketed as early as September.

But a spokesman said the true market value would depend on “whether the property is sold to the Homes and Communities Agency (who have a government remit to develop public assets for housing development), if it is sold on the open market, and if it is sold with/ without planning permission”.

The spokesman added: “We will be investing any financial gain back into supporting the local health economy, and are required to prepare a business case for our regulators to set out costs and resources against any potential surplus.”

Three other sites have been identified including nearly seven acres at Kelling Hospital, in Holt, nearly six acres at Dereham Hospital, and 3.2acs at Norwich Community Hospital. A spokesman for NCHC said on Norwich Community Hospital: “We are currently considering proposals for the redevelopment of the site, which would take place over the next five years with the aim of better serving the community. The provision of a new hospital on this site is central to these plans.”

Meridian House, in Lowestoft, where surplus land has been identifed in NHS Digital figures. Photo: Google Streetview Meridian House, in Lowestoft, where surplus land has been identifed in NHS Digital figures. Photo: Google Streetview

At Kelling and Dereham Hospitals, managers are looking at the future. “This may mean that surplus estate is released for commercial development with any financial gain coming back to the local health economy for reinvestment in services,” a spokesman added. “It is too early to say what this might look like.”

Earlier this year an independent review was released, known as the Naylor Review. It recommended the NHS sell around £2bn of land to build 26,000 homes. Before the election, prime minister Theresa May said the Tories backed the report.

The crux of the Naylor Review was that the health service faced a £10bn infrastructure funding gap and that, without investment, NHS property “will remain unfit for purpose and will continue to deteriorate”.

It recommended the sale of land to fund reforms, known as sustainability and transformation plans (STPs). Across the country, 44 STPs have been drawn up in a bid to save billions of pounds. In our region it is estimated the NHS would see a £440m deficit by 2020 if nothing was done, with our STP focussing on care in the community and prevention.

NHS sites in Norfolk and Waveney identified as having surplus land, acres rounded to two deciaml places. Photo: Archant Graphics Unit. NHS sites in Norfolk and Waveney identified as having surplus land, acres rounded to two deciaml places. Photo: Archant Graphics Unit.

‘It is shocking’

Jan McLachlan, from the NHS Norfolk Action Group, said: “It is shocking how much is proposed to be sold off, particularly given some are working hospitals and NHS facilities. Working NHS services should be preserved and improved, not further cut.

“The Naylor Review is holding trusts to ransom. What the public may not know is that the review also proposes that if trusts do not sell land they will be penalised by not being able to bid for capital funding from the government for major new projects.

“These proposed sales would also mean NHS assets, which are publicly owned are being passed to private ownership, further accelerating the privatisation of the NHS. These sales should not happen at all but certainly not without consultation with the public and frontline NHS staff, who will be affected by already under pressure NHS services being further squeezed.”

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