§ Mr. Evennett
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his policy on the provision of residential accommodation for National Health Service staff.
§ Mr. Fowler
The NHS estate in England includes over 100,000 units of residential accommodation for staff. This includes thousands of individual houses, flats and other accommodation, as well as large nurses' homes, and similar buildings.
A study showed that some 20 per cent. of this accommodation was standing empty, and that most health authorities had more accommodation than they needed. I have therefore asked health authorities to re-examine their holdings of residential accommodation and make plans to dispose of property which is surplus to requirements.
First, health authorities will be able to dispose of vacant property which is no longer needed. I should emphasis that the resources released will br retained for the benefit of the National Health Service. Land and property sales are expected to total around £130 million this year. All of this is ploughed back into the Health Service. A priority use of these funds will be to improve and modernise nurses' homes and other staff accommodation which is needed.
Second, in considering what property they need to retain in the long term, health authorities should provide accommodation, as needed, for certain professional trainees—particularly junior doctors and student nurses and for other staff in appropriate circumstances such as in inner city areas.
Third, where staff are living in accommodation that the NHS does not need to retain, they will be given the right to buy at discounted rates. The terms, as for local authority tenants, are very favourable. At present, this means discounts of up to 60 per cent. off market values.
Let me emphasise this is not a policy of eviction. The policy of rationalising the health service's holdings of residential accommodation will be so administered that no one who lives in such accommodation will be made homeless as a result. No one will be required to move from their present accommodation as part of this policy without being offered a suitable alternative place to live. Overall the policy will provide accommodation for staff who need it while at the same time releasing resources for the development of the health service.