Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
MONDAY 15 APRIL 2002
180. Right, well then a brisk answer and we
will move on.
(Mr Wearmouth) Yes.
Chairman: Yes. Thank you. Is that all right,
Mr Gardiner: Yes.
181. You told us earlier this photograph on
the front of the book shows a nurses' home that was sold in Lambeth
two and a half years ago for £3.8 million. What nurses' accommodation
was built with that £3.8 million since we know there is a
desperate shortage of nursing accommodation?
(Mr Crisp) Let me just find the figure.
182. Which figure?
(Mr Crisp) I have a note on this. I need to find you
183. Were any nurses' homes built?
(Mr Crisp) Yes.
184. There were.
(Mr Crisp) It was something associated with Guy's
Hospital and the London Lying In Hospital that was converted into
accommodation for staff as a result of using part of that money.
185. How many?
(Mr Crisp) The point of the question, it was a smaller
number of residential units which were provided than were in that
186. How many did this originally accommodate?
(Mr Crisp) That was the figure I was trying to look
for. I am sorry I have not actually found the page. 240.
187. How many did you rebuild?
(Mr Crisp) It has got accommodation, because I think
part of the project is still going on, of up to 70.
188. 70, so we lost 170?
(Mr Crisp) Yes.
189. Pity in a way, is it not, when we are so
desperate for nurses' accommodation and they cannot afford to
live in Central London? Right, let us move on to the NHS Estates.
When was that set up?
(Mr Wearmouth) I will have to look it up.
(Mr Wearmouth) I think it was approximately ten years
191. How many?
(Mr Wearmouth) Ten years ago?
192. Ten years ago. Yet we still find only 82
per cent, as Mr Gibb has pointed out and others have referred
to, 82 per cent of trusts have an estate strategy?
(Mr Crisp) The definition of an estate strategy was
only prepared the year before that. There was not a requirement
on trusts to have an estate strategy ten years ago.
193. That makes it worse, does it not? That
actually makes it worse. You only thought of getting it that recently.
What on earth have you been doing in the mean time? Is not the
reality that you have no confidence whatsoever in NHS Estates?
(Mr Crisp) No.
194. In that case, how do you explain paragraph
four which points out, on page two, "... a Public Private
Partnership initiative, expected to be operative ...." from
this current year ".... with a property portfolio worth up
to some £400 million". If we go then to paragraph 1.7
on page we are told a Public Private Partnership will be "...
to sell the majority of the remaining properties in the retained
estate and to take over the Agency's trading functions".
What do we find the Agency is left with "NHS Estates will
itself retain its policy lead and role ..." I must say that
fascinates me as a full time occupation "...in regard to
the provision of guidance...". Well, we had better hope it
is better than the guidance they have given in the last ten years,
had we not? The reality is there is no reason for this organisation
to exist at all is there now? You have passed a vote of no confidence
in it, why on earth are you keeping it?
(Mr Crisp) Right. Well, let me attempt to go back
ten years. Over this period the decision was made as I understand
it to create NHS Estates to group together the expertise that
was available within the NHS to make sure that we did some of
the things that we talked about earlier, about raising the profile
and the management skills and the professionalism of how we handled
estates matters over the last ten years. You can see a number
of things have happened over that period, including the fact that
for the first time ever, in I think 1988
195. With respect, you know I am time limited.
Will you answer my actual question. What is left to justify keeping
that organisation in existence?
(Mr Crisp) I think I have to answer first of all that
I have confidence in NHS Estates and that they have achieved a
whole series of things which now it is appropriate that we ask
other people to do. Organisations change and move like that. What
they will be doing in the futureif you are asking me thatis
they will be working much more closely on the thing that is absolutely
central to what we do in the NHS which is looking after patients.
196. There you will be giving policy leads and
to whom? Are they giving policy leads to the Private Public Partnership?
(Mr Crisp) They will be working very closely with
NHS organisations on all those important policy matters like how
you design an operating theatre, what are the requirements you
need for an operating theatre, how you make sure that you meet
the environmental cleanliness health and safety standards which
are much more strict in hospitals than they are in other sorts
of properties. Where else would we get that expertise than from
a body that is actually accustomed to working and dealing with
hospitals? There is a core set of things which it is right we
keep centrally to help and support people working in the NHS.
There are a whole series of other things which as these various
reports done, commissioned in part by NHS Estates, show that we
can work more effectively by involving the private sector in disposals
or whatever else. There are certain things which it is very important
that we keep as expertise within the system.
197. Can I tell you I hope my colleagues are
a lot more convinced than I am by that answer. Tell me, what is
this Public Private Partnership needed for? You have been selling
properties up to now and suddenly this body is to be created with
a £400 million portfolio. Now you are hoping to sell £350
million a year, are you not? What is this Public Private Partnership
for? Why is it needed and, more importantly, what is it going
(Mr Crisp) The reasons for establishing it have been
about making sure that we do all the things that I just talked
about which is to make sure that we make the best use of both
our own expertise but actually the expertise that is out there
in the market. It has been established
198. Why do you not get a good agent or a consultant,
why do you need a Public Private Partnership? Why a Public Private
Partnership simply to undertake a fairly normal operation where
there are plenty of bodies in existence, namely selling property?
Why do we need suddenly this new gimmick?
(Mr Crisp) The big point about itand then again
let me ask Mr Wearmouth if he will fill in some of the detailsis
that actually this is about making sure that we get the best deal.
The view that we have taken is that this will maximise the incentives
both for whoever our private partner is to get the best deal and
for the NHS.
199. What is a private partner going to be contributing?
What is the partnership? Tell me what it is about; what form will
it take and what it will cost and how much it will save of your
(Mr Wearmouth) The NHS Estates was subjected to its
five year quinquennial review like any other agency and actually
the review did highlight the good work the agency had undertaken.
3 Ev 24, Appendix 1. Back