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Ex-minister backs £3.5bn housing scheme to ease NHS crisis

Plans to build 35,000 homes to ease the NHS bed-blocking crisis are being pushed by a former minister – with a construction framework set to go to market this summer.

Phil Woolas, who was local government minister under Tony Blair between 2005 and 2007, is now working for Hope Living on plans to deliver housing for patients fit to leave hospital but without suitable accommodation to go to.

Separate dementia, mental health and care facilities will also be built under the scheme.

Mr Woolas told Construction News: “We have support from a UK investment fund, but we can’t disclose who that is until we go out to market.

“We have the money to set the company up, but we intend to raise £4.75bn from the City.”

The total value of building works to be delivered under the scheme comes to £3.48bn over seven years.

In addition, £90m will go to refurbishing six existing units to make them fit for purpose.

Hope Living will now go to local authorities and the NHS to encourage them to sign up to the initiative, which will see homes provided for affordable rent. 

It is understood that once local authorities have signed contracts, investors backing the scheme will release funds.

Under the model, local authorities can choose to use existing suppliers or a framework Hope Living will set up to deliver the homes.

Hope Living will tender for contractors, with procurement expected to start in June this year.

Gleeds has been appointed as project manager for the scheme and will oversee the construction and refurbishment of all homes and facilities delivered.

The scheme’s backers claimed the initiative could save the NHS £10bn over its first 10 years, and free up hospital beds.

The plan is now being considered by health minister David Mowat.

Mr Woolas said “urgent action” was needed to tackle bed-blocking and that he was “pleased the government and local authorities are actively considering our proposals”.

He added: “One of the central problems facing the NHS is the inability to discharge patients into the community.

“We can solve the problem by providing thousands of quality homes at affordable rents. The savings to the local authorities generated by the project can be ploughed back into social care.”

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