Summary and implications

In January 2012, the Department of Health announced its intention to create a property company to take ownership of and to manage the primary care trust estates not being transferred to community care providers. NHS Property Services Ltd (NHS PS), a private limited company owned 100 per cent by the Secretary of State, has now been established and will play a crucial role in modernising and developing NHS estates, buildings and facilities.

On 31 March 2013 approximately two thirds of the current NHS estate, valued at around £5bn, will be transferred from 150 primary care trusts and 30 health authorities to NHS PS. From April 2013, over 3,500 facilities, including administrative buildings, operational community care property, operational primary care property (e.g. GP surgeries) and surplus property, will be managed by NHS PS. In addition, over 3,000 staff will transfer to the new company.

The role of NHS PS will be wide-ranging. There will undoubtedly be a number of challenging issues encountered as part of the transfer process, with the company inheriting different ways of doing things from the various primary care trusts and health authorities currently in place. NHS PS are aiming to achieve a seamless transfer of the estate and of the day to day management of the estate – effectively a “lift and shift” from the current providers to NHS PS.

What does this mean?

From the launch date, NHS PS will be responsible for delivering:

  • strategic estates management;
  • property management;
  • operational estates management (including statutory compliance, planned preventative maintenance, refurbishment and maintenance of buildings, plant and machinery); and
  • facilities management (where currently provided by primary care trusts).

NHS PS is currently in the process of collating operating information from the primary care trusts and the strategic health authority in order to build a financial ledger and to be in a position to maintain continuity of service from the April 2013 launch date. However, in total the transition will take approximately two years, with the transition taking place in London first, with the rest of the country following.

The longer term goal for NHS PS is transformation by driving efficiencies (including disposing of properties which are surplus to NHS requirements), new developments and partnerships.

In the short term, there is no doubt that NHS PS will face a number of challenges as it embarks on the forthcoming transition phase, not least the volume of property interests, leases and other contracts to be transferred. There are of course implications for private sector investors, landlords and services providers too; they will need to understand and build a relationship with a new entity which has no track record and a different statutory status to that of PCTs. Time will tell if these issues will be addressed to the market’s satisfaction.