Exclusive: Virgin ditches practice takeover and scales back plans

Virgin Healthcare has abandoned plans to take over an NHS practice in Swindon and scaled back its plans for a chain of Virgin-branded health centres, citing the current economic turmoil.

The company’s chief executive Mark Adams is also to step down to pursue other projects.

Virgin had been in negotiations with the Taw Hill practice, with contracts expected to be finalised early last summer. The plan would have allowed Dr Peter Crouch to retain his NHS status, but work from a Virgin-branded health centre which sold additional private services.

But the company has kicked the project into the long grass. It says it plans to focus on less capital-intensive work while it makes its name in the health sector.

‘We were wildly optimistic a year ago that conditions were right for a rapid roll out,’ Mr Adams said. ‘Now we're a lot more cautious about consumer spending power next year.’

He added that the company remained committed to general practice and was in discussion with more than 300 practices. It now hopes to launch its first Virgin-branded health centre next year.

Mr Adams hinted that his decision to move on had been motivated by the decision to slacken the pace.

‘I was asked to come in and quickly build a business with scale. But it's clear this needs to be more of a greenhouse development, where what we do is carefully nurtured,’ he said.

‘It doesn't need someone as big, ugly and expensive as me.’

He will remain involved with the company as a strategic adviser.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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