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Scope of the inquiry
The NHS Property Services Limited (the Service) manages NHS properties in England. It currently owns 2,900 properties which have a total estimated value of £3.8 billion. Over 60% of the properties are health centres, surgeries or clinics and half of the seven thousand tenants are NHS trusts and foundation trusts (31%) and GPs (18%).
However, a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report has found that the Service’s level of outstanding debt has almost tripled. In March 2019, tenants owed £576 million which had increased from £210 million in March 2018. The NAO report also found that, as a landlord, the Service has no effective way of getting tenants to sign formal rental agreements and 70% of them do not have an agreement in place which further exacerbates the issue.
Furthermore, the report found that too many NHS organisations and GPs perceive rental payments as ‘optional’, meaning many months of rent are not paid. In 2018-2019, the Service only recovered 58.4p for every £1 it billed and although GPs only occupy 18% of properties, they owe 30% of the current outstanding debt.
Overall, the NAO report concludes that the Service lacks the powers it needs to make its tenants sign lease agreements and pay their rent. While the Service has introduced a new billing system in 2017, many bills are still disputed especially by tenants without rental agreements.
On Monday 9 September, the Public Accounts Committee will question the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Care alongside NHS Property Services Chief Executive Officer, to investigate how the Service is managed and what action can be taken to improve how it manages its tenants.
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