State-funded National Health Service (NHS) could save up to 2 billion pounds by taking better control of its underused and empty properties, which represent 264 soccer pitches worth of space, a report said.
The NHS could raise 1 billion pounds by selling half of this 1.9 million square metres of space and could save a further 1 billion pounds through more efficient procurement of goods and services, property consultancy EC Harris said on Thursday.
The sum would put a sizeable dent in the government's quest to find 20 billion pounds of savings in the NHS by 2014, which is targeting a massive overhaul of the service and legislation to increase competition among medical care providers.
While the NHS made progress towards improving efficiency last year, cutting wasted space by about a tenth to 1.9 million square metres, radical and concerted action was still needed, EC Harris said.
The biggest thing that has gone against the savings has been the total reorganisation of the NHS which has meant that people's focus has been on organisational change rather than on how they can actually achieve cost savings, said Conor Ellis, a partner at EC Harris who authored the report.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government has set up a company called NHS Property Services which will take over and manage part of the estate currently owned by primary care trusts, and would be launching a strategy in April targeting 1.2 billion pounds of savings in procurement.
The NHS decides locally on the estate they need to deliver high quality services. This includes deciding which estates not needed by the NHS can be used more efficiently and which can be sold, so the money can be reinvested in local NHS services for patients, the spokeswoman told Reuters.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)