NHS Estates, an executive agency of the Department of Health, has formalised its legal requirements for the first time by appointing Pinsent Curtis as commercial adviser.
NHS Estates previously allocated legal work on a job-by-job basis and has not used Pinsents before.
The firm's instruction as commercial adviser to NHS Estates is wide-ranging, covering contracts advice, intellectual property, IT, procurement, employment, litigation and VAT. The firm will work with NHS Estate's headquarters and its network of eight regional offices.
NHS Estates director of finance Tim Straughan says: "We have been given a significant role in implementing the NHS Plan, which was announced by the Prime Minister in July 2000, which will see us facing a diverse range of legal issues, many of which will be complex. We decided to formalise our legal requirements and opted for Pinsent Curtis because of the extent of its experience and reputation in advising NHS bodies on complicated commercial issues."
Michael Boyd, the Pinsents partner responsible for the new relationship, says: "The NHS as a whole is an important area for us and we are delighted to have been appointed to this role by NHS Estates. We are looking forward to being involved on a wide range of subjects."
Beachcroft Wansbroughs, which made a failed bid for the role, has won a new instruction from the body as legal adviser on the disposal of the Secretary of State's surplus estate. The project involves 600 properties at a value of £650m and is to be completed by 31 March 2002. A competitive tender for the work was staged by NHS Estates through the EU journal and protocols. Under the NHS Plan, savings generated through property disposals are to be reinvested in the Health Service.
Beachcrofts has previously provided commercial advice to NHS Estates, but partner Marisa Broadhurst, who is leading the team on the property disposal, says: "We tendered for the [commercial] job and were sorry to lose it but we were more interested in getting the other one. There is no comparison between the two. NHS Estates was flooded with applicants. This is very good for the property department."