The new NHS property company will have 2,500 staff and a portfolio of “several thousand” properties with a total value of around £5bn, HSJ has learned.

The information is set out in a series of Department of Health documents seen by HSJ relating to the appointment of senior directors of NHS Property Services Ltd.

The new organisation will have an interim structure for its first two to three years, led by a national board with four directors. Beneath them will sit four “sub-national” directors, each covering one of the existing strategic health authority cluster areas, and between 16 and 20 “patch estate managers” responsible for smaller geographic areas.

The company’s chief executive and chief operating officer will be on “very senior manager” contracts. Local managers will be employed on Agenda for Change Band 9.

“Call off” contracts will be set up at the sub-national level with commercial partners to provide extra estates management capacity and plug any “gaps in skills”.

“Ministers have confirmed they are content with the proposal of an interim model capable of operating for some 2-3 years, until the full commercial model can be developed,” one background document says.

A job summary for the chief executive officer said: “The company’s success will be dependent on integrating more than 160 teams, each from separate organisations, into one new, homogenous entity, but based on a sub national structure.”

The documents say the company will have 2,500 staff and value the company’s likely property assets at “circa £5bn” and “c£4.5bn”.

Either figure is significantly higher than previous estimates, which valued the likely portfolio at around £2bn, and suggest that most PCT-owned clinical sites now occupied by provider trusts will be owned and managed by the property company.

In 2010 the DH valued the entire PCT estate at £5.2bn. DH guidance last summer said that PCT assets could transfer to NHS trusts where the trust was the main occupant and the asset was used to provide services.

The proposed 2,500 staff is higher than previously expected. In January the DH calculated there were just over 2,000 estates and facilities staff working in PCTs. Conor Ellis, head of health at property consultancy EC Harris, said the NHS estate was “not as well managed as it could be”, and that through forming a single organisation and better working practices could lead to improvements.

However, “that will lead ot a loss of staff going forward - but that is all to be worked out over the next three years.”

The proposed staffing level suggests that existing PCT estates functions are expected to be transferred “lock stock and barrel” to NHS Property Services, Hempsons partner Graham Lea told HSJ.

“If you’re going to transfer the business you have to transfer all the staff, so you can’t make them all redundant. But that may come later.”

Questions were also raised over how any redundancy costs will be met.

Hilary Blackwell, partner at Capsticks said: “They might get landed with a lot of staff they don’t need or want – it’s potentially an enormous headache for the new organisation.

“If they don’t grasp the nettle before the transition, they will have to do it after. Who is going to take the financial brunt for reorganisation?

“The property company may not have a big contingency fund, and could get in a financial muddle quite quickly depending on the deal with the Department of Health and whether they’re underwritten.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Until greater detail of the estate has been collected, which cannot begin until NHS PS is operational in April 2013, it will not be possible to say how staff numbers will change over time.”

The DH does not yet have the final list of properties which the company will own. The spokesman added that it was not yet clear what its annual turnover will be, as “it has not yet been agreed how funds will flow between the Commissioning Board, CCGs, the DH and NHS Property Services.”