Developers will take control of huge swathes of land worth hundreds of millions of pounds, if the NHS fails to maintain a string of private finance initiative contracts. Sunday Telegraph

Five hospitals are being run under PFI deals that give the private-sector partners land leases that extend far beyond the original contracts to provide and maintain NHS buildings. Hospitals signed up to contracts lasting up to 60 years, with 'break points' at which the NHS could terminate the deal. However, it has emerged that if the NHS does not fulfil the entire contract, the private firms keep the land leases, which could then be used for housing developments.

For example, should the NHS terminate its 60-year agreement early at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south-east London, contractors Skanska and Innisfree will gain the right to use the land and buildings until 2126. The lease on the 600-bed hospital and 27 acres of land runs 125 years from 2001 when the complex opened. Knight Frank estimated that the site, now worth £45m, could bring in three times as much if used for housing.

Other hospitals at risk are Darent Valley Hospital in Kent; Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle; Hereford County Hospital; and University Hospital in Durham.