To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his policy towards the provision of residential accommodation for National Health Service staff; and if he will make a statement.
I am very pleased to say that the Nationwide Anglia Building Society has today announced a special mortgage scheme for nurses and other National Health Service staff working in Greater London. Loans will be offered up to 100 per cent. of the purchase price, at a higher multiple of earnings than is normally available and at very favourable interest rates. Facilities for joint purchase are included. In return, the society will take a share of any capital gain at the time of disposal of the property. This imaginative scheme, prepared in consultation with the NHS management board, will enable more NHS staff to buy their own property and should improve the recruitment and retention of staff in London. It is an excellent example of how collaboration with the private sector can benefit the National Health Service.The scheme will be assisted by a proposal which has been put today to the General Whitley Council by the management side. This will give health authorities more discretion than at present to make interest-free advances of salary to staff wanting to acquire accommodation. The aim is to help staff to take advantage of the Nationwide Anglia scheme and, throughout the country, make it easier for them to obtain homes of their own to buy or rent.These measures reflect the Government's view that, in the main, it is better for NHS staff to obtain their housing in the normal way. The proposals in our Housing Bill will help further by increasing the amount of private accommodation available to rent. Nevertheless, there will be a continuing need for appropriate residential accommodation to meet particular local NHS needs, riot only for student nurses and others in training and for those required to be resident on site but also in some places for qualified staff who cannot yet find their own accommodation.We will be asking health authorities, when determining their accommodation needs, to consider a number of options, including not only direct provision and management themselves but also, for example, collaboration with housing associations of similar bodies. The Department has already commissioned two pilot studies with housing associations.In addition, we will continue to encourage health authorities to improve accommodation standards by reinvesting the proceeds of sales of surplus properties. We are also reviewing the terms on which NHS staff occupy residential accommodation and shall be issuing guidance to ensure that such staff have proper tenancy agreements setting out clearly their rights and responsibilities.I believe these measures represent a good deal for nurses and others and will improve health authorities' ability to recruit and retain staff.