Like all public services, the NHS is having to deliver services with fewer resources, at a time of unprecedented demand. Consequently, the sustainability of decades of public investment is being put at risk.
We know that housing associations and the NHS have invested heavily into local communities. They have built assets, become major employers and made investments that will benefit people and neighbourhoods far into the future.
Yet the availability of capital in the NHS is at an historic low. The Naylor Review in 2017 highlighted the opportunity that the NHS estate represents to generate money that can be reinvested in patient care, while simultaneously ensuring its workforce is adequately housed. The government’s response includes an ambition to provide affordable housing for NHS workers, benefitting around 3,000 families.
As the main providers of affordable housing, housing associations are the obvious partners of choice for these developments. By entering into joint ventures with them, NHS Trusts will bring their land for development, and receive a return on this capital, whilst simultaneously providing much-needed housing for all kinds of health workers.
In some areas, it’s estimated that the return on capital achieved through these kind of residential housing joint ventures can be 16% greater than through disposal at market rates.
Last year, Thames Valley Housing and Frimley NHS Foundation Trust opened keyworker housing near to Frimley hospital: the accommodation included 76 single occupancy bedrooms, and ten one-bed flats. The site had previously been occupied by Frimley children’s centre, which was then relocated to the main hospital. Thames Valley Housing now provides keyworker accommodation for nine NHS Trusts, ranging from cluster flats with singe room occupancy, to three-bed houses.
There are opportunities available to housing associations in developing, managing and maintaining keyworker accommodation with their local NHS providers. The challenge comes in developing a business case that works for both housing and health: and that is where HACT can help.
Another opportunity for closer collaboration between housing associations and the NHS is in the new models and pathways of care. That will be the focus of the next part of this blog.