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LABOUR accused government ministers of “selling off the NHS family silver” yesterday as party research revealed a massive leap in the amount of health service land sold over the last year.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said patients would be “alarmed” at the “secret fire sale of valuable assets,” which has seen land “under consideration” rise by nearly a third.
Analysis of the NHS Surplus Land report for 2017/18 shows that 1,750 hectares, or around 718 plots, were listed as “surplus,” with a total market value of £1 billion, and 140 sites are specifically listed as having been used for clinical or medical purposes.
The total number of sites has increased by 31 per cent in the previous year, when 543 plots were deemed “surplus” to requirements.
Over two years, the amount of land for sale had risen by 320 per cent, according to the research.
Forty-three sites in 2017/18 have a market value over £1 million each. At least 10 of them are listed as entire hospitals and six of them ambulance stations.
The most valuable site is Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot, Berkshire, at £35m.
Among the top five most valuable sites are a number of listed buildings at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, worth £11.6m, and the kitchen garden, worth £16.7m, also in Berkshire.
Labour is calling on the government to make more capital funding available to the NHS in the autumn Budget so that hospitals do not have to resort to selling off buildings and land.
Mr Ashworth said: “With hospitals crumbling, in desperate need of repair and renewal, the government must provide the capital investment our NHS now clearly is crying out for rather than forcing financially stretched hospitals into a fire sale of assets.
“Patients who want good local hospital services will be alarmed at this huge rise in the amount of NHS land being put up for sale.
“Hospitals are struggling to cope with years of cutbacks from the Tories. The answer should be a serious long-term government-funded investment plan, not selling off the NHS family silver.
“What’s more, with details withheld for so many of the sites for sale, it simply adds to the sense that this government is driving through a secret fire sale of valuable assets.
“All this uncertainty and rumours of deals behind closed doors are clearly not good for the long-term sustainability of the NHS.
“Ministers must provide the capital funding that the NHS needs in the Budget this autumn so that hospitals can start tackling the huge repair backlog they face and invest in the future equipment and technology which modern patient care demands.”
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