Alexandra House

Alexandra House


Dorset County Hospital


Sustainability and social value

Short walk to the hospital, therefore encouraging a sustainable commute

Increases footfall in the town centre, supporting the local economy

High-quality, affordable accommodation attracts staff, supporting recruitment and retention of key workers

A solution to the ongoing problem of limited key worker housing

Having worked across health and care for more than two decades, one problem that has remained constant is the limited offer of good quality homes for key workers. This is crucial in attracting and retaining the best staff but recently this issue has become more difficult. NHS governance changes have resulted in health organisations being unable to take demand risk or have new assets on their balance sheet, despite it potentially helping to ease the staffing crisis.

So, when Dorset County Hospital (DCH) approached us, we pulled out all the stops to find an achievable, deliverable route to offer key workers affordable homes.

Recruitment from outside the UK has been a valuable contribution to the NHS for many years and forms an important part of its workforce supply strategy. Set against a crisis in medical staffing, the resulting increased costs of employing agency nurses has seen DCH employ a growing number of overseas nurses in recent years.

In addition to offering homes to international and UK-based staff, the Trust believes that a major incentive to work at DCH is to provide good quality, well-maintained accommodation close to the hospital.

However, as the price of homes in Dorchester is considerably higher than the national average, it made this issue more difficult to solve. With no large university in the area, there isn’t a natural flow of medical students who ‘stay on’ to develop their careers at DCH. Instead, they often move on to larger towns and cities in the South West, meaning the Trust has a constant recruitment task.

The Trust has 90 beds of existing shared/student-style accommodation which varies in quality – but it is fully occupied with a constant rotation of junior doctors and medical students – with no room for other critical key workers. The remainder of their accommodation is set in private homes that vary in location and quality – with some as far away as Weymouth.

When the Trust heard about a new development of 63 affordable homes being built in Brewery Square, just off the high street in Dorchester and only a 10-minute walk from the hospital, they approached the developer asking to rent them all. However, when they were told they were only for sale and rental wasn’t an option, DCH turned to Prime for help as the development already had planning permission and construction had begun.

Prime stepped in and bought all 63 one and two-bed apartments and carefully quality managed the construction alongside the original developer to ensure they met the stringent quality standards that Prime sets for all its buildings. The commercial structure and funding model created ensures the accommodation meets the Trust’s needs and that of its staff, without requiring NHS capital, demand guarantees or approvals – meaning Trust staff could move in when ready, without impacting its finances.

Let on minimum six-monthly tenancies direct to staff, Prime worked in partnership with DCH to ensure they are affordable, with Wi-Fi and utility costs all included in the rent. In addition, Prime is providing the apartments on a furnished basis – saving the key workers the worry and stress of having to purchase and move furniture.

All the apartments meet national space standards and include fitted kitchens with an oven, hob, dishwasher and washing machine. They have been built to a high standard and are warm, energy efficient and the perfect place to call home.

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