Published: 21/03/2002, Volume II2, No. 5797 Page 6

An estimated£35m has been lost to the NHS because trusts have been too slow to sell off surplus land, according to a report by the National Audit Office out today.

The Management of Surplus Property by Trusts in the NHS in England examines whether land sales were achieving best value and the extent of cross-agency cooperation with local authority planners to speed up sales.

The NAO expressed concern about the amount of information on estate management being given to trust boards. It found that only 66 per cent of trusts it surveyed had reviewed their estate at least every 12 months to identify surplus property and then reported their findings at board level.

'Trusts that undertook review and reported to their board at least annually in the years 1997-98 to 1999-2000 disposed of 2.2 per cent of their property by value on average. This compares with 1.4 per cent for trusts that reviewed less frequently... If all trusts achieved the higher [estates disposal] rate associated with more frequent review and report to the board, this would have yielded an extra£35m.'

The value of the NHS estate is estimated at around£23bn and trusts are expecting to sell around£700m between 2000-01 and 2002-03.

Trusts also need to develop a closer relationship with council planners, author Craig Pritchett said. Planning permission increases the value of surplus property. He cited Claybury Hospital, which closed in 1997 and was sold by for£15m.

Without planning permission it would have been a sum 'no greater than£5m', the report said.