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Huge London health devolution deal will focus on asset sell-off

A deal to give London unprecedented devolved powers over health and care has been signed by officials today.

The agreement includes calls for the NHS to sell off unused land and buildings in the capital and reinvest the money in community and public services, with surplus land being marked for housing.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, mayor of London Sadiq Khan, London Councils, several NHS organisations and wider health and care leaders all signed the deal, which has been tested with pilot schemes for nearly two years.

The NHS is one of the largest landowners in London, holding an estimated £11bn estate, but a high proportion of the capital’s primary care holdings – including GP surgeries and family health clinics – are in poor condition, with 13% requiring rebuilding and 51% in need of refurbishment.

Today’s announcement means these services will benefit from the sale of other NHS-owned assets. This money can also be channelled into community care and other key public services.

“I’ve long argued that London needs greater control over the services that will help improve life in our city,” commented Khan. “It is vital that the capital has the powers to plan and coordinate health services that meet the needs of local communities and ensure Londoners have proper access to them.

“Today is a really important step in the right direction in our journey to becoming the world’s healthiest city and an unprecedented level of partnership working, with more than 100 organisations, has made this all possible.”

In response to the news, Hunt added: “This agreement will put local people in the driving seat about the health and care they receive in the capital and means that Londoners will have more of say on how their healthcare needs are met now and in the future.”

“I know there is a huge amount of good practice and innovation in London’s health and care services, and this will help them to go further and faster in improving patient care.”

A similar devolution scheme has been development in Manchester for over two years and was recently praised by NHS England’s outgoing national medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh.

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said the London agreement was a step forward for care and health services in the capital.

“This strengthened partnership has the potential to unlock funds for reinvestment in much needed modern NHS buildings and clinics across London, as well as kick starting more concerted action on rising health threats such as obesity and air pollution,” he continued.

“The practical test will be ensuring this welcome new cooperation rapidly catalyses new benefits for all who depend on the capital's health services.”

Other devolution deals are planned across the country, with Surrey the next in line for increased local power and responsibilities.

In June, local authorities and CCGs signed a pledge to move forward plans for the area and will expect to see a similar announcement to today’s somewhere in the future.

Cllr Claire Kober, chair of London Councils, called the agreement a “significant step forward” for health in the capital, adding that pilot schemes had clearly showed the positive effects devolution would have.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said the announcement would make the capital a healthier place to live and gave leaders a chance to “shape local environments and encourage healthy decisions and healthier lifestyles.”

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