Plans for a £1bn boost for capital spending to tackle a 'legacy of under-investment' in NHS buildings were issued last week.

The departmental investment strategy says poor quality and rundown buildings have created backlog maintenance running at over£3bn. It blames a lack of spend between 1995-96 and 1998-99.

The strategy promises local planning guidance later this year, and says the NHS Modernisation Agency will play a 'key role' in achieving best practice in the use of capital assets.

The condition of primary care premises is particularly poor: 79 per cent of premises are 'below the required size' and 61 per cent are over 30 years old.

The strategy also sets out the role for block and discretionary capital.

It stresses that trusts will have to demonstrate that their spending plans will deliver the requirements of the NHS plan, including reductions in backlog maintenance. The strategy covers three years, although the£1bn commitment will be spread over five years .

The document also promises further guidance when it has refined a set of performance indicators for estate management.

NHS Estates is currently auditing a number of trusts for their approach to managing their estate, the quality of information they have on their asset base and their approach to capital planning Tomorrow is the deadline for final offers for a contract to run a single NHS payroll system to replace three systems currently in use. The company awarded the contract will take on maintenance of the existing standard payroll system which expires at the end of December and start piloting new systems by October 2001. All sites should go live in April 2004, running an integrated payroll system which includes core human resources information. The new system is estimated to cost about£3m-£4m more per year than current combined expenditure.