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Tied Housing (Hospitals)

Volume 893: debated on Monday 16 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the number of units of tied or service accommodation provided by hospitals and the number of quarters vacant at 31st March 1975.

During the year ended 31st March 1973, the latest period for which complete information is available, health authorities in England owned or controlled single-person residential accommodation in the form of hostels or flats with shared facilities for approximately 97,000 staff. Over this period an average of 20 per cent. of these places were unoccupied, but this figure includes accommodation allocated to staff who were absent on annual or sick leave, as well as vacancies resulting from the normal turnover of staff; other accommodation was being redecorated or upgraded. Authorities also own some 13,000 houses and flats for married staff, but no information regarding the number of vacancies is held centrally.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans she has to inquire into ways in which hospital tied housing might be abolished without damage to the health service; and whether she will make a statement.

The great majority of the accommodation provided by health authorities for their staff is in the form of hostels or flats with shared facilities, primarily for students and pupils, and staff on short-term contracts. Self-contained houses and flats, mainly for married staff, are provided for medical staff either with short contracts or who need to live near their place of work, and, in parts of the country where there are housing difficulties, for other hospital or community health staff whom it might otherwise be difficult to recruit or to retain. Usually the acceptance by staff of such accommodation is voluntary; in relatively few cases is the tenancy a condition of employment. The absence of this accommodation could in many cases seriously jeopardise the ability of the relevant health authority to maintain health services. Therefore, whilst I am conscious of and sympathetic to the occasional problem experienced by an individual who may leave the employment of a health authority there are no present plans for a special inquiry into the system. I would be happy to study any proposals that my hon. Friend may wish to put forward.