Should NHS land be used for elderly housing?

Energy Price Rises Leave Elderly With Fuel Debts

MP advocates retirement villages and adapted flats

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow, former care minister, has announced that surplus NHS land should be used to build dedicated housing for older people.

As part of a review of residential care for think tank Demos, Mr Burstow said that as well as traditional care homes, retirement villages and adapted flats also needed to be invested in, with the review suggesting that planning rules could be relaxed to offer discounted prices.

Currently, 450,000 people in England live in residential care homes, however the number living in adapted housing, also known as extra care apartments or retirement complexes, are much smaller. Mr Burstow wants to combat this by offering residents ‘tenancy rights’ when they move in, to give them more influence about how homes are run.

Homing for the elderly

At the moment, less than 40% of land held by NHS trusts is used for hospitals and medical buildings. The Department of Health say they are currently working to free up land, although not in relation to the Demos report. Since 2010, NHS land with the capacity for more than 10,000 homes has been sold. Not all of this would have been used for housing for older people.

Mr Burstow told BBC News “As we are living longer lives, housing with care is going to become increasingly important in helping us stay independent, happy and healthy. It is vital that government wake up to this reality sooner rather than later and helps create the right incentives to ensure older and disabled people have a genuine choice when they need to move.” Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said “We agree that the NHS can make better use of surplus land. That is why we have a programme to identify and sell surplus land.”

The Demos review coincides with work produced by charity Age UK, who have called for all new homes to be built to a lifetime homes standard, which means they can be easily adapted as people age, by introducing things such as grab rails and level-access showers. This could cost £1,500 at the building stage according to government research. Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said “Ensuring all new housing can be easily adapted would save the country millions and help end the nonsense of older people lingering for long periods in hospital, simply because of delays in fitting adaptations like grab rails and ramps.”