Health service leaders have suggested that the NHS should utilise some of its spare land to create around 40,000 new homes for doctors, nurses and other key staff.
These critical workers are being negatively affected by a serious housing shortage, according to healthcare observers.
However, many people believe that house price inflation is ultimately caused by speculation, readily available credit and profiteering, and that simply making more homes available would have little impact.
Nonetheless, the proposals by the NHS Confederation will see modern versions of nurses’ homes built; once a common feature of NHS hospitals.
Niall Dickson, the confederation’s chief executive, has stated that the government should create a new £10 billion NHS Homes Fund with the intention of revising the tradition of health service provision for staff.
“There was a time when there were nurses’ homes all over the country but they all fell into disuse and were sold off from the 1960s onwards. We believe there is a case for new-style homes for NHS staff, particularly where the cost of housing is very high, which leads to staff not wanting to work in these places because they can’t find proper accommodation or have to travel long distances,” Dickson commented.
A review of NHS property by Sir Robert Naylor, the former chief executive of University College London Hospitals, was published back in March, and this study concluded that there is a significant amount of land available for private development.
But Dickson believes this could be better used by creating around 40,000 homes for NHS staff.
“Indeed, there may well be scope for building affordable housing for the local community more generally,” the chief of the NHS Confederation asserted.
Estimations of the value of the land suggest that it is worth in the region of £2.7 billion, yet it remains unused as there is currently no incentive for NHS bodies to release the land for development.
But Dickson suggest that money could be seeded from the NHS homes fund, which would amount to approximately £10 billion.
“This should not be about selling off the NHS,” Dickson said. “The proceeds from land sales should be ploughed back into the health service. The NHS desperately needs more capital.”
Providing affordable housing for NHS employees is clearly extremely important, as the healthcare service is finding it increasingly difficult to both hire and retain staff.
Around 15% of registered nursing jobs are currently unfilled, and the situation is set to exacerbate still further in the coming years, as bursaries are phased out.
Dixon believes that providing more affordable homes for staff will ultimately have a positive impact on the working culture, recruitment and retention of staff.
“There are certain kinds of staff where we have a real difficulty trying to recruit and there’s no doubt that if you were able to offer accommodation it would make a post a lot more attractive. If you ask people running hospitals in London, large numbers of their staff don’t live locally any more and have to travel significant distances.”