1 September 2017 | Adam Leach
NHS commissioners are being given the opportunity to offload the costs and responsibilities of managing vacant and unused space in their buildings under a new scheme unveiled by NHS Property Services.
Launched yesterday, the Vacant Space Handback Scheme is designed to help the NHS reduce an estimated cost in the region of £10 million a year incurred through unused space across its estate. Through it, NHS commissioners can transfer liability for eligible space to NHSPS, who will then seek to re-let, dispose or develop the space.
"We know that commissioners don't want to be spending their money on empty space, and now we can help them avoid some of those costs," said John Westwood, director of Asset Management at NHS Property Services. "This scheme will free up more of their budgets for frontline care."
To qualify for the scheme, the space must be a self-contained unit above 100 square metres in size, declared surplus to requirements by commissioners, vacant and free of debt, not a PFI, and in a property in which NHSPS has a legal interest. It must also have been transferred to NHSPS as part of the 2013 health reforms.
Westwood added: "We can then use our expertise to put the space back into use as soon as possible, maximising the value of the NHS estate."
In terms of how NHSPS might seek returns from the space, it is likely that due to planning restrictions, they will be re-let to other healthcare providers. However, it is possible that residential development might also be an option.
Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy said, "This scheme is an important part of our ongoing efforts to help the NHS make the most of its estates, delivering greater value for money and freeing up extra funds for patient care."
NHS Property Services is currently responsible for an estate of more than 3,500 properties worth more than £3 billion.