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Virgin shelves primary care plans as CEO exits

By Gareth Iacobucci

Virgin Healthcare today announced it was shelving its plans to launch into general practice, as the company's chief executive stood down.

A fledgling part of tycoon Sir Richard Branson's empire, the firm blamed the dire economic climate, saying the time was not right for it to launch its controversial new venture.

The move has killed off plans for the company's first project, the takeover of a GP surgery in Swindon and has thrown huge doubt on whether it will eventually live up to its ambitious plans to enter the healthcare market.

More than 300 GPs were said to have expressed interest in joining the company, which had planned to launch in Swindon this year, followed by a string of other surgeries next year across the country.

Virgin said that chief Executive Mark Adams would remain as a strategic advisor to Virgin Group's board, while Virgin Healthcare continues to ‘develop options'

Gordon McCallum, Virgin Group UK Chief Executive, said: ‘Mark and the development team at VHC continue to spend a great deal of time ensuring that when we enter this market we enter with the right proposition for both patients and doctors, at the right scale and importantly at the right time. Given the current economic conditions and the challenges within the sector we have decided to measure our pace and to evaluate a broader range of entry options.'

Virgin had previously told Pulse it had been inundated with interested parties after up to 3,000 GPs attended roadshows on its proposals to offer partnerships and profit-sharing from the launch of a range of private medical services. It had been actively discussing plans for surgeries in areas including Carlisle and Croydon, as well as looking at launching in Birmingham, Peterborough and High Wycombe.

Mr McCallum said: ‘With discussions well under way with a number of practises we are optimistic that at least one of these options will come to fruition in the short to medium term.'

Commenting on the Swindon deal, a Virgin Healthcare spokesperson said: 'We can confirm that we won't be proceeding with the project in Swindon. This is just one discussion of many. Those carry on. We definitely aren't pulling out of the sector.

'It's mainly a timing issue, and where we find ourselves with the economic conditions. We are just having to be mindful of the economy and are measuring our pace.'

Virgin: shelving its primary care plans Virgin: scaling back its primary care plans

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