An NHS health trust is to take ownership of more than 70 buildings within the next year, swelling its assets by around £50m.

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They include community hospitals in Norwich, Dereham and Swaffham and other premises where Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust services are already delivered.

The changes, presented at an AGM in Norwich yesterday, will allow the trust to use its estate more effectively to deliver community care, said chief executive Michael Scott.

The trust returned a surplus of £545,000 for the financial year 2011/12, but blamed unexpected cost pressures and a shortfall in planned efficiency savings for missing the target of a £1m surplus. However, it is on track to meet a surplus target of 1.1m in 2012/13, and £8.9m savings, up from £6.1m in the past year.

Those savings included renegotiating supply contracts (£0.4m) and reviewing staff travel arrangements (£0.8m).

Mr Scott cited Aylsham hospital as an example of how assets could be used to improve services. He said: “There is now a new nursing home, a housing estate, a health centre and a community centre.

“With the money that was released, we built the new hospital at North Walsham. The point about owning the assets is it gives us the flexibility to invest locally.”

Firm plans will not be formed until the estate had been handed over, but the intention was to keep them in trust control to meet community health needs, he added.

The meeting was also told that the Foundation Trust status application was at the final stage with the Department of Health, after which it would be passed to Monitor, the independent regulator.

Chairman Ken Applegate said the trust was “a big player” in the county and, with NHS reforms taking effect, would be growing and working more in partnership with organisations such as Norfolk County Council, adding: “We are showing that we can save money through the system.”

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