In 2010 Richard Branson's Virgin Group bought 75% of healthcare provider Assura Medical with a £4m loan. Two years later, Assura was rebranded as Virgin Care, and the company now runs 120 NHS services. Most are GP practices, but Virgin Care is also aggressively targeting other community health services, including district nursing, services for people with learning difficulties and children’s centres.
In 2011 Virgin created shockwaves when it beat Central Surrey Health to a £500m community care contract. CSH was a highly-praised not-for-profit social enterprise that had won David Cameron's first ever "Big Society Award", but was unable to match Virgin in raising a £10m bond as surety.
Earlier this year, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, then Culture Secretary, intervened on Virgin’s behalf to speed through its takeover of seven community hospitals in Surrey, despite concerns over reduced staff conditions, and the nursing director's fears of "significant" risks during the first year.
Even David Cameron’s Witney constituency has not been spared. Virgin's Deer Park Medical Centre has been criticised for understaffing and waiting times of up to two weeks.
Virgin Care is nominated for:
Getting a helping hand from Jeremy Hunt to push through its takeover of seven community hospitals in Surrey.
(Source: Guardian 9/9/12)
Creating a potential conflict of interest through its commercial links with GPs on clinical commissioning boards, responsible for £60bn of NHS spending.
(Source: Guardian 27/3/12)
An aggressive approach to contracts that has elbowed out not-for-profit social enterprises.
(Source: Pulse 11/4/12, Guardian 19/9/11)
Protesting to the competition panel after losing a tender in York to the NHS provider. The panel rejected Virgin's claim that the NHS had engaged in "predatory pricing" by setting too low a bid.
(Source: British Medical Journal 1/5/12, Guardian 15/3/12)
Seeking to influence NHS policy through its presence on key panels, including the NHS Constitution review.
(Source: False Economy 30/3/12, Department of Health 8/3/12, NHS Confederation 9/2/12)