New owners of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital under fire for ‘incomprehensible’ answer to rent question.
NHS Property Services (NHSPS) took over 12 East Devon community hospitals on December 1, 2016 – prompting fears from some trustees and representatives over the future of the facilities under a commercially-operated company.
Speaking at a recent Devon County Council (DCC) health and wellbeing scrutiny meeting, Councillor Claire Wright called for NHSPS bosses to be held to account and voiced her frustration at repeated failures to provide the authority with more information.
Cllr Wright asked the company to outline how much each community hospital is being charged in rent, but NHSPS says it is unable to disclose the figures as they remain in commercial confidence while lease negotiations are being concluded.
Cllr Wright said: “I asked for the information in June and I asked again and they said they would get the information and they did not. The answer they have given is incomprehensible.
“A very strong message needs to go back that we have now been waiting seven months for an answer to a very straightforward question and we would appreciate it if they would come to the next meeting because they now own 12 community hospitals across East Devon.”
NHSPS is responsible for managing 3,500 NHS buildings and ploughs any profits back into the health services – selling on property it considers no longer necessary.
Cllr Wright argued it cannot ‘pick and choose’ and, if it is – as claimed – a part of the NHS family, should be held accountable.
Sidmouth fundraisers have vowed to safeguard the future of the town’s hospital, which has undergone a £5million refurbishment paid for entirely by community contributions.
Vice president of the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund, Frances Newth, said it has received assurance from NHSPS that there should be no noteable changes under the new ownership. She added that trustees have emphasised the amount of community support received in the town and the importance of maintaining it.
Responding to a question from DCC about the amount of rental income compared to figures spent on maintenance, NHSPS revealed its budgeted rental income for 2016/17 is £408 million nationally.
The amount set out for routine, small-scale maintenance in this period is £98 million – which does not include overheads such as salaries of teams carrying out the work – and an additional £60 million is forecasted for larger maintenance projects.
A spokesman for NHSPS said: “The information sent to the council this month was provided further to attending two committee sessions in 2016, where members had the opportunity to question company representatives in person.
“We have provided supporting written information on two other occasions, as requested by the council.”