Letters Plans to sell off NHS land

Plans to sell off NHS land—ludicrous financial idiocy

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4895 (Published 26 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4895
  1. J S Bamrah, consultant psychiatrist
  1. Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester M8 5RB, UK
  1. jsbamrah{at}aol.com

Naylor and Chand debate plans to sell off NHS land.1 Three concepts underpin the Naylor report: freeing up public land to build housing to solve the housing crisis; new models of care have different infrastructure requirements; and the sale of NHS land will generate funds for the controversial sustainability and transformation plans.

This capitalist scheme will sell public land to private developers—who currently own between them enough land to build some 600 000 new homes—with considerable financial benefits. The only reason to release public sector land is to increase profitability and to get private hands on more prime central London property at knockdown prices. Naylor expects London to raise billions of pounds through this initiative.

This sends a clear message to trusts that have surplus or disused land—sell and you will be rewarded; don’t sell and you will be punished. This has raised an early expectation of mass transfer from public to private ownership. Naylor was reported as being “delighted” at the offer of £3.3bn (€3.7bn; $4.4bn) of private financing for new primary care facilities. He recommends exploring little used regulatory powers to force GPs to comply. As if the crisis is not deep enough, this will add to the burgeoning number of problems in primary care.

This is simply another version of the private finance initiative, described in 1999 as “perfidious financial idiocy” by the then editor of The BMJ.2 PFIs largely used private loans to build hospitals, contributing substantially to the NHS debt.3 The Naylor version is to sell land, best described as “ludicrous financial idiocy.”

Chand makes some salutary points—we need transparent accountability of public assets and better use of publicly owned assets without handing them over to privateers. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

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