The Royal College of Nursing has criticised a London hospital trust’s plans to sell off accommodation for nurses and other key workers to build luxury flats as “nothing short of disgraceful”.
The Royal Free NHS Trust is planning to sell its key worker accommodation and replace it with luxury flats worth up to £10m, according to reports today in a national newspaper.
“We will be challenging these plans all the way”
It is privately marketing a 100-year-old hospital building that provides affordable housing for 52 nurses and other key workers to property developers, The Guardian said.
Otto Schwalowsky, 26, an intensive care nurse at the Royal Free who has been living in Queen Mary’s House for nine months, was quoted in the paper’s article.
He said it was “a real shame” that the hospital was considering selling the building. “NHS hospitals have to have key worker accommodation,” Mr Schwalowsky said. “We don’t get a huge amount of money anyway, so it’s good to be able to walk to work.”
In response, RCN London regional director Jude Diggins, said: “These clandestine plans to replace affordable key worker housing on NHS land with luxury flats worth up to £10m is nothing short of disgraceful and an insult to hardworking and dedicated health care staff.
“Rents in the area are sky high, yet instead of seeking to extend and improve the availability of affordable housing for its staff, the Royal Free is intent on selling its land to the highest bidder and uprooting people from their homes,” she said.
“We will be challenging these plans all the way,” she said. “NHS land is public land and should be used to provide the affordable housing people need, not line the pockets of high-end estate agents and luxury property developers.”
In a statement, a trust spokeswoman said that “no decision” had yet been made to sell Queen Mary’s House.
”The Royal Free London must use its estate in the most efficient way to ensure we can deliver the very best care to our patients,” she said.
“With this in mind, a process to market Queen Mary’s House has begun to establish the level of interest in the site with a view to a possible sale in the future,” said the spokeswoman.
She added: “Any future developers would need to also provide affordable housing in the area. Residents – who are all on short term leases – have been informed and the trust is committed to finding them alternative, affordable accommodation should the site be sold.”
Queen Mary’s House is a former hospital building vacated by Camden and Islington Health Authority in 2011. It is owned by the Royal Free London.
The top floor is leased to a housing trust and the building is also used as a temporary location for the Royal Free eating disorder service.
The housing trust has a lease and the earliest the trust could exercise a lease break would be July 2020. There are currently 52 tenants, of which the vast majority are Royal Free employees covering a broad range of clinical and non-clinical roles.