East Devon MP calls on Health Secretary to protect East Devon's hospitals from high rents

PUBLISHED: 17:22 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:25 10 July 2019

East Devon MP, Sir Hugo Swire. Picture: Wikimedia.

East Devon MP, Sir Hugo Swire. Picture: Wikimedia.

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More protection should be in place to stop community hospitals being charged exorbitant rents, says East Devon MP.

Sir Hugo Swire is calling on the Health Secretary to protect the district's hospitals from rental charges imposed by the state-owned NHS Property Services.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock spoke about the NHS Long Term Plan at Parliament on Monday, July 1.

Last week, the National Audit Office suggested hospitals nationally may be at risk of closure if rents were hiked at the next set of reviews in 2021.

Mr Hancock confirmed that his department now allows NHS trusts to bid for the ownership of their estate if they can demonstrate the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management benefits of taking over the buildings in question.

NHS Property Services owns and manages around 10 per cent of the NHS estate by value. Nationally, outstanding debt has almost tripled since 2014 to £576 million.

Mr Hancock added that Ottery St Mary Hospital had 'enormous promise for delivering services closer to the community' in line with the ambition of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Sir Hugo said: "I was delighted to be able to show the Secretary of State the Health and Wellbeing Hub in Budleigh Salterton and the opportunities at Ottery St Mary Community Hospital. I was delighted that he confirmed both places have a role to play in the future of healthcare provision in East Devon.

"However, last week the National Audit Office found that community hospitals and GP surgeries are struggling to pay the rents charged by NHS Property Services.

"If my right honourable friend is interested in securing a legacy before he moves on to even higher political office would he please look as this, particularly in advance of the reviews planned for 2021?"

Mr Hancock said: "I certainly will. I would also like to draw my right honourable friend's attention to an announcement we made last month that allows local hospital trusts to request property from NHS Property Services to allow it to be transferred to the trust if it can then be used better locally in a more flexible way, in the way that the hub I saw at Budleigh Salterton absolutely delivers and I can see the opportunities with the potential hub at Ottery St Mary, which was a community hospital and which has an enormous amount of promise for delivering services closer to the community."

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