• DHSC allows transfer of ownership schemes for trusts
  • Bids can be submitted to take over estate owned by two NHS property companies
  • Two schemes already in the pipeline

Trusts have been invited to apply for ownership of buildings on their estate which are currently owned by NHS Property Services and Community Health Partnerships.

New rules announced by the Department of Health and Social Care enable all trusts to submit bids to become the owner of estate formerly owned by primary care trusts and certain health centres.

In 2013, ownership of PCT estate was passed to the then newly-established NHS Property Services, after PCTs were disbanded as part of the Lansley reforms.

Meanwhile, Community Health Partnerships took on PCT head tenancy obligations for primary care facilities funded through Local Improvement Finance Trust schemes, such as health centres.

Trusts will now be allowed to take ownership of this estate if they can demonstrate the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management benefits of taking over the buildings in question, subject to support from the local clinical commissioning group and the regional team of regulators.

Ministers will make the final decision on bids, but a DHSC team will assess the bids and make recommendations.  

The DHSC guidance, issued late last week, said the policy applied to properties on a trust’s estate, but did not state how this is defined. 

Bids must show how the ownership change will improve frontline services and enable faster decision-making on investment in patient facilities at those properties. 

The DHSC said the change recognised trusts are often “best placed to judge how to use their estate to benefit the local community”.

Two such schemes are already underway. These involve West Suffolk Foundation Trust for Newmarket Hospital and Dorset Healthcare Foundation Trust for Boscombe and Springbourne Health Centre.

Once a bid is submitted, the DHSC will spend up to six weeks considering whether to approve it. If the request is denied, the trust can resubmit an updated business case within two months.

Only properties that are operational and intended for long-term use to the NHS will be eligible. 

Under the terms the trust and property company will agree a valuation of the building, but the transfer will not require a cash payment. The transfers will have no effect on the public balance sheet. 

In the event of a trust taking over ownership and selling the property later at a higher price, the trust must return 50 per cent of the uplift in value back to the property company the estate was transferred from.

If the building contains other tenants then their support or objection to the transfer will be taken into account by the DHSC assessment team. 

NHS Property Services owns and/or manages around 10 per cent of the NHS estate by value, while CHP is involved in more than 300 LIFT properties.

Any of the companies’ staff which maintain or manage the property being transferred could fall under TUPE arrangements, and would therefore transfer into the trust. 

The financial impact of the scheme on the two companies is expected to be minimal. 

NHS Property Services and Community Health Partnerships “will continue to hold significant portfolios of NHS property and… be expert providers of property-related services,” according to the guidance.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, described the move as a positive change, but said “it will not solve the wider problems of trusts accessing capital funding”.

  • Article updated at 12.03pm on 30 May with extra information about the impact on NHS Property Services and CHP.