The White Paper, 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 hospitals and clinics.
When asked, the NHS Homes Alliance says that 68% of NHS staff surveyed said the lack of affordable housing would be a key driver in deciding to leave their current employment within the next two years – with the data based on NHS Vacancy Statistics April 2015 – December 2022, 2023. Data from the same source indicates that NHS Trusts currently report a shortfall of over 154,000 staff, ‘which is set to worsen amid growing demand for healthcare’, and the figure could rise to 570,000 by 2036.
Using the ‘landmark’ 2017 Naylor Report, NHS property and estates: why the estate matters to patients, 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 (pictured), non-executive director at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, CEO at Perspicio, and one of the White Paper’s authors, said: “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, the White Paper says 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.’
The White Paper calls for an HM Government cross-departmental, NHS, and private sector taskforce to take forward the opportunity, and provides recommendations to enable delivery.
Dawn Harvey, NHS Dorset’s Chief People Officer, said: “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.”