Hot off the press for this year will be the announcement of who has been appointed to the Express LIFT panel. This is a panel of private sector partners selected by Community Health Partnerships to provide opportunities for those areas and parties not already within existing LIFT programmes. This panel will provide an express procurement route to enable primary care trusts and local authorities to set up joint ventures with the object of providing improved primary care and community facilities.

The long awaited introduction of the international accounting rules (IFRS) will provide further challenges in relation to balance sheet treatment of property ownership, leases and project documentation (particularly in relation to PFIs). It is understood that Monitor are introducing new regulations to soften the impact on foundation trusts of PFIs coming onto their balance sheets. Linked in with all this, many are considering innovative structures and we are looking in particular at ways in which charities set up with objects aligned to those of NHS bodies could be set up to take the strain.

As primary care trusts gear themselves up further to split their commissioning and provider arms the practicalities of who gets which parts of the estate will kick in further. Consideration of who is best to hold and manage properties and assets will involve ensuring, on the one hand, that the provider arms are equipped to survive post split and on the other hand that the commissioners can demonstrate adequate contestability in the marketplace. Whoever ends up being in control and owning the lion’s share it will be important to ensure that it is clear who is responsible for managing, insuring, repairing and maximizing the use and benefit of NHS estate.

Finally, at a more practical level, trusts will be grappling with the increasing level of certification required in particular in relation to energy performance, displaying energy certificates and in respect of air conditioning.