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Royal Brompton v Roupell & Head

On the 70th anniversary of the creation of the NHS, the High Court has decided a test case about the effect of the National Health Service Act 1946 on the ownership of the endowment properties of the hospitals that were nationalised. In Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity v. (1) Roupell (2) Head [2018] EWHC 1873 (Ch), the claimant charity brought possession claims against two of its residential tenants. The claimant was the successor in title to the Board of Governors of the Royal Brompton Hospital in South Kensington. The defendants had first moved into their properties in the 1970s and early 1980s. But the claimant said it was entitled to possession from them because they had never enjoyed the protection of the Rent Acts. The claim was that, when the NHS was created, the endowment properties of the hospital came to be held on trust for the Minister of Health, and that this meant there had been Crown immunity from the Rent Acts. Under the National Health Service Act 1946, an existing network of voluntary hospitals had been nationalised and brought under state control, in order to create the NHS. The ownership of those hospitals was transferred to the Minister of Health. The Royal Brompton Hospital was one of a number of voluntary hospitals that was nationalised in this way. But, along with the other old teaching hospitals in London, it owned some historic endowments at the point when the NHS was created, and these included an estate of residential properties that had been given to the hospital in the 1850s. The question for the court to decide was what happened to those endowment properties when the NHS came into being. The court held that the endowments were not nationalised, and did not transfer to the Minister of Health, but came to be held on a charitable purposes trust, and that therefore Crown immunity therefore did not apply. The court also rejected an argument by the claimant, that if the endowment properties had not been nationalised in the 1940s, then they were nationalised later on, in the 1980s, as part of a reorganisation of the NHS. The judgment also considers whether the claimant would in any event have been estopped from treating the defendants as if they were not Rent Act tenants, and it considers the relationship between sections 19A and 38 of the Housing Act 1988. Mark Sefton QC acted for the successful defendants.

The judgment can be found here


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