National Health Action Party press release 30 May 2017
Theresa May has given her full backing to the Naylor Report in BBC's The Andrew Neil Interviews. We want to make it crystal clear to the voters of this country before they go to the polls on June 8 that if they vote for this they are voting away their children's right to a future which contains a comprehensive, accessible and universal NHS. The motive behind the changes being enforced on the NHS in the name of 'efficiency' and 'sustainability' is quite simply profit for the private sector and includes a mass transfer of assets on the cheap from the public sector to private hands.
When NHS Property Services Ltd was created in 2012 in advance of the Act which enabled its creation, so unseemly was the haste to get hold of the public's assets, it caused concern at the House of Commons Health Committee. The National Audit Office investigated and uncovered failures of good practice. It noted that the government had failed to properly consider forms of public ownership and failed to provide detailed operating objectives. The NAO noted that one of the outlined advantages of setting up a company was the possibility of a future complete sale to the private sector. So even when it was created MPs knew what its purpose was.
We do not accept that land sales and commercial rents being forced onto Foundation Trusts and GPs are a way of securing the NHS' future. We think it shows the strength of the desire to unlock the ownership of these assets and transfer them to the private sector that the Naylor Report recommends that Her Majesty's Treasury should provide additional funding to incentivise land disposals through a “2 for 1 offer” in which public funds match disposal receipts. A bribe to encourage an NHS starved of funds to sell the family silver. And should the bribe not succeed there will be a penalty imposed for holding on to the assets.
A firm of international lawyers*, say, "With thanks to the British Property Federation, the key recommendations are around establishing a new and strategic NHS Property Board at arm’s length from DH to act as the primary voice on estates matters."
Deborah Harrington of the NHA Campaign Team said, "Property developers should not be at the forefront of recommendations surrounding the public estate. When NHS services are put 'at arm's length' that means we are losing public ownership and control. Public estates are a lucrative investment for the private sector, but at the cost of a loss of available funds for the front line care that our services exist to provide. PFI's inflated costs are well known, but the increasing privatisation of NHS property is happening in other areas too. Virgin bought its health business from Assura in 2010 in order to profit from increasing NHS privatisation and changed the company's name to Virgin Care in 2012. But Assura's main NHS business is in rental property for GP surgeries. Assura declared its profits for 2016-17 as £95.2 million before tax. In the previous year, 2015-2016 they were £28.8 million. That's up 230.6%. That should be a national scandal.
The Naylor Report's vision of accelerated sale of NHS property does not enhance health provision. Property developers stand to make profit from land acquired on the cheap. NHS Property Services Ltd has already commercialised the leases on the properties it acquired in the 2012 transfer and is implementing the imposition of commercial rents. The biggest transfer of properties so far took place in December 2016, when the company completed the transfer of the freeholds of 12 community hospitals in Devon into its ownership, with the last line of their press release stating 'leases to regularise occupation are currently being finalised'. It is clear that in this context 'regularise' can only mean 'commercialise'.
We do not need commercial rents for public property. We need to keep our public lands and buildings in public ownership for public use. NHS funding should not be providing 'significant growth built on a secure and long-term income stream' for the property sector in a period of economic instability as it states in Assura's annual report. It should be secure funding for the key responsibilities of the NHS: providing a safe, high quality, accessible, comprehensive health service to the country as a whole. The more the NHS moves from its core purpose, the less likely it is to be there to provide its services for future generations."
In 2015 Open Democracy published an article by Deborah Harrington on the estates sell- off. In the context of the Naylor Report we think it is essential reading, https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/deborah-harrington/going-going-gone-great-hospital-selloff.
*We previously published the name of the law firm but we have since been contacted by that firm to ask us to remove their name because they do not wish to be associated with a political party.