The chief executive of a struggling NHS property company has quit after getting a new job with a student accommodation company. 

Elaine Hewitt will leave NHS Property Services at the end of March after nearly five years at the helm. She will become CEO of UPP, which provides student accommodation.

NHS Property Services, which is owned by the Department of Health and Social Care, has endured several difficult years – both prior to and during Ms Hewitt’s premiership.

The company was set up as part of the Lansley reforms to manage NHS estate formerly owned by Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the NHS’ total estate.

However, it has limited powers to collect payments from tenants and its attempts to do so have angered GPs, who have accused the company of excessive charging and taken it to court.

Last November the Public Accounts Committee reported that NHS Property Services was “set up to fail” and that the company, NHS England, and the DHSC had “failed miserably” to end the long-standing problems.

In January 2019, HSJ revealed the company paid significantly higher bonuses to its directors compared to nearly every other national NHS organisation, despite recording deficits every year of its existence.

Ms Hewitt received a bonus of between £75k and £80k in 2017-18, and between £65k and £70k in 2018-19. The salary for the role is £225 to £230k. A year earlier, the company moved to new premises at Gresham Street in the City of London.

Ian Ellis, NHS Property Services’ chair, said in a statement: “Elaine leaves NHSPS a much improved business, delivering real value to frontline NHS services and in a strong position to influence and support the future public healthcare estate.”

Martin Steele, the company’s chief operating officer, will become acting CEO from 1 April.