Saturday, April 05, 2008

NHS Ponders Multi-Billion Pound Sale Leaseback of London Hospitals

Times Online - April 5, 2008

Ministers have begun a review of London NHS property in a move that could lead to the sale of some or all of the capital’s biggest hospitals to raise billions of pounds for new projects.

The Times has learnt that the London strategic health authority, which includes the 31 primary healthcare trusts in the city, has hired investment bankers to advise it on the options. The NHS has one of the largest property estates in Europe, valued at more than £23 billion.

In London the huge and ageing property portfolio comprises nearly 100 hospitals and hundreds of smaller sites, which together cost £700 million a year to maintain. The review follows Gordon Brown’s plan to reap billions from selling off a swath of the Government’s £337 billion of assets.

The capital has 32 large acute hospitals, and 206,000 doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are deployed in the city. If the London NHS review proved successful, the model could be replicated across other NHS healthcare trusts around the country. “They are sitting on all this property and it is all such a waste,” one source said.

The most likely London options would include the Government selling off some of the prime hospital real estate in a process known as “sale and leaseback”, which would leave the NHS trust paying rent to the new owners for the continued lease of the building. Another option being considered is “securitisation”, where the Government would bundle together packages of buildings and use them as collateral to raise money in the markets, although that would leave the Government with a huge pile of debt.

But it is not just hospitals that are attractive for potential investors. The Times was told that the NHS was also sitting on vast plots of unused land and outbuildings that could be handed over to developers. Sphere: Related Content

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