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Supporting development of homes on surplus NHS land

A joint ministerial taskforce has been announced in response to the new NHS Homes Alliance White Paper, to help deliver homes for health and social care workers to support staff retention and recruitment.
Sarah Hordern NHS Homes Alliance

The White Paper launched at the end of June 2023 titled ‘A People Driven Approach; Delivering NHS Homes’, authored by the NHS Homes Alliance – a collaboration of representatives from public and private sector organisations including NHS Trusts, pension funds, financial, legal and real estate experts; housing associations; architects and developers – sets out a vision for using the NHS estate to build affordable, high-quality, and sustainable homes near to hospitals and clinics. Thus, boosting NHS and social care staff retention and recruitment, ultimately improving the quality of care and providing better services for all.

Lord Markham CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, says:

“I welcome the paper from the NHS Homes Alliance which highlights several recommendations to address the issues that have so far prevented the NHS delivering key worker accommodation at the scale and pace that is required. I will lead a joint taskforce with the housing minister, Rachel Maclean to work through the barriers identified and support the NHS to streamline delivery of this much needed accommodation to support its vital and valuable workforce.”

When asked, 68% of NHS staff surveyed said that the lack of affordable housing would be a key driver in deciding to leave their current employment within the next two years*. NHS Trusts currently report a shortfall of more than 154,000 staff, which is set to worsen amid growing demand for health care. Reports suggest the figure could rise to 570,000 by 2036.**

Using the landmark Naylor Report (2017) as its starting point, the White Paper recommends that developments are built based on the specific recruitment and staff retention needs of local health and social care services, according to NHS Trusts and ICBs, and provide different types of homes that work for the required staff at all levels of primary, secondary and social care; from junior doctors, nurses and social care workers, to porters and cleaners.

Sarah Hordern, Non Executive Director at Oxford University Hospitals NHS FT, CEO at Perspicio, and one of the authors of the White Paper, says: “We are delighted that a joint ministerial taskforce will take the White Paper’s recommendations forward and help find solutions to the urgent need for decent, affordable housing for our talented NHS and social care workforce.

“Good quality accommodation close to work shouldn’t be a pipe dream for health and social care workers, who are often adding long and expensive commutes on top of demanding shifts. We need to ensure that talented people working in the NHS and social care have housing that supports their needs, and can be recruited without the barrier of a lack of decent, affordable places to live close to where they work.

“All the organisations involved in this White Paper have contributed their time and expertise to addressing the specific challenges faced by NHS Trusts and ICBs in delivering homes for health and social care staff. We have convened an important conversation around the NHS estate and by capitalising on the collaborative strength already building through the NHS Homes Alliance, we can take steps towards fulfilling the potential available in the NHS’s second greatest asset – its land.”

The paper sets out proposals to deliver homes for long-term rental, retaining the freehold interest and using private sector and housing association development expertise to build housing to meet demand identified by Trusts to improve retention and recruitment while protecting the long-term value and flexibility of use for the NHS.

By using medium term leases lasting 30 – 60 years, the weight of capital currently available through pensions, and a clear brief on who the homes should be for, NHS Trusts can facilitate delivery partners to create integrated communities with genuinely affordable rents that support recruitment and retention of health and social care workers.

Roli Martin, Managing Director at Global City Futures and one of the authors of the White Paper, says: “Instead of selling the family silver we believe we can put it to work, making better use of the NHS’s assets to deliver homes and communities for NHS and social care staff. The NHS needs a strategic approach to utilising its existing land holdings in a way that provides housing and creates community, retaining and nurturing its workforce. The NHS faces a huge challenge and this is a sensible approach to using its assets to secure its future for everyone.”

Dawn Harvey, NHS Dorset’s Chief People Officer says: “In Dorset we are committed to achieving the best possible improvements in people’s health and wellbeing. Access to quality housing plays a big part in supporting people and communities to stay well.

“We employ around 50,000 people across health and care, so our workforce is a big part of the communities we serve. Up to 67% of staff have experienced challenges in finding suitable housing***, which impacts their wellbeing, and is often a reason they leave the sector.

“With a staff turnover rate of 19.5% in health and an eye watering 40% in social care, our ability to attract people, including internationally trained staff, is negatively impacted by the lack of affordable housing.

“Unlocking opportunities to provide key worker accommodation, build communities and help our workforce to thrive, just makes sense. We need more health and care professions to support our communities and they need quality, affordable homes to live well in Dorset and deliver great care.”

To download the White Paper visit

* Oxford University Hospitals Staff Accommodation Survey 2022

** NHS, NHS Vacancy Statistics April 2015 – December 2022, 2023

*** Dorset ICS People Plan approved by the ICB Board 4th May