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Two thirds of homes to be built on former NHS sites are unaffordable to many nurses

New analysis sparks RCN warning of a ‘recruitment and retention crisis’, especially in London

New analysis sparks RCN warning of a ‘recruitment and retention crisis’, especially in London


Former site of Thorpe Coombe Hospital in Waltham Forest,
where 91 new homes are planned. Picture: Google

Two thirds of homes being built on former NHS sites across England are unaffordable on the average salary of a nurse, a thinktank has warned.

In one case, it would take a nurse more than a century to afford the deposit on a home at one former London hospital site, prompting concern from RCN London that cost-of-living pressures are fuelling a ‘recruitment and retention crisis’ in the capital.

Unreachable goal

The analysis by the New Economics Foundation tracks the affordability of homes to be built on land sold off by the NHS.

The thinktank found the average sale price of houses planned on former NHS land was £306,434 – nearly 10 times the average salary of a nurse.

The foundation analysed planning data from 23 NHS sites declared ‘surplus’ in 2017-18, which each have plans for 80 or more homes to be built on them.

Findings include:

  • Some 67% of homes being built on ex-NHS sites across England are unaffordable on the average salary of a nurse.
  • Of those properties deemed ‘affordable’, a nurse would have to work for an average of 35 years to secure the deposit for a mortgage.
  • Only 5% of homes built would be for affordable social rent, according to the foundation.

London is one of the worst areas in terms of affordability, the analysis found. For example, a nurse would have to work and save for ‘more than 100 years’ to afford the deposit on one of 91 homes planned at the former site of Thorpe Coombe Hospital in Waltham Forest.

2016 survey of nurses by RCN London found that 40% were considering leaving the capital due to housing costs.

RCN London regional director Jude Diggins said: ‘It is nothing short of disgraceful and a painfully short-sighted way to manage land that could help house vital healthcare workers and low-income Londoners.

‘Selling valuable land in order to balance the books for one year is counter-productive and does little to solve the cost-of-living pressures that are driving nurses out of London and fuelling a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession.’

Plan for public ownership

The foundation is calling for the creation of a People’s Land Bank – a ring-fenced, national stock of publicly owned land for the development of genuinely affordable housing.  

Responding to the analysis, a government spokesperson said: ‘Since April 2010 there have been more than 400,000 affordable homes provided in England, but we’re aware that more needs to be done, which is why we’re investing over £9 billion in affordable housing and an additional £2 billion after 2022.’


Read the New Economics Foundation report 


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