West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust could make millions of pounds by selling land

But campaigners warn that selling off NHS assets shrinks capacity in the health service

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 11:30 am

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust could make millions of pounds from selling land it owns, figures reveal.

NHS Digital data shows West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has identified one site it could sell for an estimated £5 million.

The potential site is a plot at Watford General Hospital.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust could make millions of pounds by selling land

The site has been identified as having potential to be declared surplus to requirements, subject to a disposal strategy being developed.

The site earmarked for disposal sits on a total area of around 7.1 hectares and could accommodate 100 new homes.

It is is deemed suitable for mixed use with housing.

The collection of data on surplus NHS land first began in 2008 in order to provide information on sites that can be disposed of, to contribute to the Public Land for Housing programme.

The programme is part of a Government plan to release land to boost its housing delivery.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust plans to redevelop the three hospitals managed by the trust, the plans include up to 90% of new buildings at the Watford General Hospital site and improvements at the hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “We are proposing a transformation of our hospital site at Watford which will provide up to 90% new buildings.

"We are working at pace so that we can open these facilities in 2025 or soon after and our priority is on providing these and not on land sales.

"We are also making significant improvements at our sites in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

"As part of our planning we are considering what land we need both now and in the future to provide health services for our community.

"This is likely to mean a combination of land sales and land purchases as flexibility for the future is important; however our business case will also need to demonstrate effective use of public money and that wider public sector objectives are being met.”

We Own It, a group campaigning against privatisation, warned that selling off NHS assets shrinks capacity in the health service, which is needed now more than ever.

However, the Department for Health and Social Care said trusts are only encouraged to sell land when it is no longer required to deliver services.

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, said: "Selling off NHS assets is a false economy at the best of times, but in the middle of a pandemic it's even more wrong-headed.

“The NHS has a massive backlog of surgery, treatment and care to deal with, on top of the astronomical pressures Covid has put on the health service. "Our NHS nurses, doctors and healthcare staff have been working flat-out throughout the Covid crisis."

She said the Government should develop NHS land and assets to clear the backlog and ensure people get the operations they need.

“Instead of making a quick buck with short term sell offs, it's time to build the NHS we'll need for the decades ahead," she added.

A DHSC spokesman said: “To prevent trusts from being burdened with the additional cost of maintaining redundant facilities, the NHS is empowered to sell land that is no longer required, or unsuitable for modern clinical care, and reinvest money in upgrading facilities.

“We are investing billions to deliver 40 new hospitals around the country and ensure the NHS estate is fit for the future, including £450 million to upgrade A&Es and help trusts continue to deliver safe and accessible services through winter.”