The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd June 2017

Vote Labour to save NHS from instant sell-off

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has let slip Tory plans for a swift sell-off of NHS land and buildings, with pressure on all NHS trusts to sell off their ‘NHS Estate’ assets at knock-down prices to private development companies as quickly as possible.

In a television interview with Andrew Neil on 22nd May, the Prime Minister spoke of an extra £10 billion of capital funding in buildings and technology for the NHS that would be separate from NHS revenue funding. She repeated many times that this would be done according to the proposals in the Naylor Report.

Few people watching had any idea what that meant and Neil did not press for an explanation. Nevertheless NHS campaigners were quick to look it up and were shocked — and are now ringing alarm bells.

Sir Robert Naylor delivered his ‘independent report’ in March this year. It had been commissioned by Health Secretary James Hunt to set out “a new direction of strategy for NHS estates in England.”

The report claimed to be concerned with the estimated £5 billion backlog of repair to existing NHS estate assets.

Naylor claimed that such a backlog can no longer be fully funded, saying: “This review was predicated on widely accepted assumptions that the NHS estate is not currently configured to maximise benefits for patients or taxpayers.”

He claimed that the report set out a new strategy “which supports the delivery of specific Department of Health (DH) targets to release £2 billion of assets for reinvestment and to deliver land for 26,000 new homes.”

He continued: “This work suggests that the NHS can release £2bn of assets and deliver 26,000 homes and with an effective programme of interventions in high value propositions in London, this could significantly increase the property receipts to a figure exceeding £5 billion in the longer term.”

In other words, a new Tory government and NHS England will cover over massive cuts to existing infrastructure in ‘investment in buildings and technology’ through selling off NHS land and buildings for housing plots for the big housing corporations.

The report also recommends the “acceleration” of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) — the closures of District Hospitals and other NHS services — by using incentives to sell the assets as quickly as possible at below market value prices.

These incentives take the form of a two-for-one offer in which the Government would award funding to match the selling price to each trust that sells its estate property.

On the other hand, trusts that try to cling on to their estate property will be penalised by having funding for repairs and renewal of equipment blocked.

Naylor has proposed the creation of an arms-length NHS Property Board to provide “leadership to the centre and expertise and delivery support to Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).”

He says it should be “a strategic organisation, at arms-length from the Department of Health and structured so that it empowers speedy executive action and professional credibility within the sector.”

NHS Property Services (NHS PS), formerly NHS Propco, was set up in 2012 following the Health and Social Care Act, having taken over £5 billion worth of property — some 3,500 properties, including offices, primary care and community health facilities formerly used by the Primary Care Trusts.

On this the Naylor Report says a shadow form of the NHS Property Board should be set up immediately and “consider if the functions and residual assets it inherits from the abolition of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) should be divested back to providers.” Otherwise all this property will become part of this great sell-off of NHS property being implemented by a future Tory government.

The report goes on to estimate that it will cost the Government around £10 billion to carry out these plans and suggests that this could be met from three sources; property disposals, private capital (for primary care) and from Her Majesty’s Treasury.

The Government would be selling off billions of pounds worth of our treasured NHS property and still the taxpayers would be out of pocket at the end of it!

The Government is also considering creating Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs) modelled on the US-style private health care system as one of the models for the STPs that the next government will use.

There is only one sure way to prevent this happening — we must ensure that Labour wins the election on 8th June.