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Hospitals in London need to learn the tricks of the property market to cash in from selling derelict land and buildings, according to a top NHS boss.

Sir Robert Naylor, chief executive of University College London Hospitals, has been appointed by the Government to help trusts convert unused parts of their estates into 26,000 homes and raise £2 billion to plough back into the NHS.

He believes there could be “20 to 30 sites” around London that are ripe for redevelopment – with many of the new homes being available for key workers such as NHS staff.

Sir Robert told the Standard: “It’s a great opportunity for the NHS to look again at its strategy. I think, like most public sector organisations, we have never had the skills within the health service to think about property development.

“The opportunity here is to bring in expertise from the property development field and financial field.”

He declined to name any sites. But Barts Health is known to be keen to sell derelict land at Whipps Cross hospital, in Leytonstone, and last year sold London Chest Hospital, in Bethnal Green, to Circle housing for £49.6 million.

Sir Robert recalled coming under pressure to sell the former Middlesex Hospital site for its “book value” of £32 million to fund the new UCLH hospital on Euston Road. He refused to sell the site for six years, until it was redeveloped with planning permission, and then received £175 million – which was used too buy more land around the main UCLH campus.

“We have acted very much like property developers but within the NHS,” he said. “We just happened to have the skills within the trust.

“What I will be able to do is get the groups of advisers and experts together, and we can form the partnerships or joint ventures to give the hospitals the knowledge they will need to be able to do this.

“Some of the properties in London have extremely high value if we get good development permission on them.”