A London foundation trust says it has used its commercial freedoms to raise millions of extra pounds by selling off a former hospital building, which will help pay off its debts and may help improve services.

A London foundation trust says it has used its commercial freedoms to raise millions of extra pounds by selling off a former hospital building, which will help pay off its debts and may help improve services.

Cash-strapped University College London Hospitals foundation trust is thought to have received around£170m for the sale of its unused Middlesex Hospital building.

Patients have been moved from the now-redundant hospital building to the trust's new£442m public finance initiative hospital. When the PFI contract was signed in 2000, the Middlesex building was estimated to be worth just£35m.

The exact figure for the sale has not been revealed, but trust chief executive Robert Naylor said sensible business practices and freedom from bureaucracy meant the trust, rather than property developers, have benefited.

'This is a good example of what foundation trusts are all about,' he said. 'The old NHS would have sold the Middlesex Hospital for a knock-down price and the temptation would have been to use the funds to prop up deficits elsewhere.'

The trust negotiated with Westminster council to lift some restrictions on what the Middlesex buildings could be used for so that purchasers would be prepared to pay a premium.

The first£36m of the proceeds will pay off a trust loan to help finance the PFI deal, with more used to support the trust's recovery plan, agreed with regulator Monitor, to address a£36m deficit.

The trust has yet to decide how to use the rest of the money, but some may be spent on patient facilities.