For sale: London’s NHS hospitals

Ominous news from The Times:

Ministers have begun a review of London NHS property in a move that could lead to the sale of some or all of the capital’s biggest hospitals to raise billions of pounds for new projects.

The Times has learnt that the London strategic health authority, which includes the 31 primary healthcare trusts in the city, has hired investment bankers to advise it on the options. The NHS has one of the largest property estates in Europe, valued at more than £23 billion.

[…]

The most likely London options would include the Government selling off some of the prime hospital real estate in a process known as “sale and leaseback”, which would leave the NHS trust paying rent to the new owners for the continued lease of the building. Another option being considered is “securitisation”, where the Government would bundle together packages of buildings and use them as collateral to raise money in the markets, although that would leave the Government with a huge pile of debt.

But it is not just hospitals that are attractive for potential investors. The Times was told that the NHS was also sitting on vast plots of unused land and outbuildings that could be handed over to developers.

The Times kindly provides a list of Brown’s privatisation crimes:

— Gordon Brown raised £22.5 billion from the sale of the 3G mobile phone spectrum in 2000, but used the proceeds to repay national debt. The cost of the licences weighed heavily on the share prices of the winning bidders, which struggled to cope with the debts they incurred to win

— In July 2001 the Government sold off 51 per cent of National Air Traffic Services, the air traffic control network, but had to pump £65 million into the system after the aviation industry downturn after the September 11 attacks

— In February 2003 33.8 per cent of QinetiQ, the defence company spun out of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, was sold to the US private equity firm Carlyle Group for £42 million. Labour came under attack for selling the company during a time of depressed markets when QinetiQ was floated in 2006, valuing Carlyle’s stake at £350 million

— In 2006 British Nuclear Fuels announced that it was to sell its US subsidiary Westinghouse for £3 billion, and in 2007 announced the sale of its UK subsidiary Reactor Sites Management Company

— In May 2007 the Government fast-tracked the sale of a 25 per cent stake in British Energy, raising just over £2 billion. The sale took its holding from 64 per cent to 39 per cent

— In May last year the Government hired advisers to look at raising as much as £1 billion for the Treasury by selling British Waterways, which manages canals and waterways

There is another way

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