GPs warn Virgin health centres 'threaten clinical objectivity'

GPs have warned that plans for new Virgin-branded health centres will threaten clinical objectivity.

Richard Vautrey
Richard Vautrey

Virgin's plan would see practices retain their existing NHS contracts, but move into new centres alongside a range of private Virgin services such as dentists or pharmacists. Part of the practice's income would be a share of the entire centre's profits, likely 10 per cent.

But Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chairman, warned that this would raise questions over GPs' objectivity when referring patients to the centres' private services.

‘If there are facilities in which they have a financial interest but which are effectively private clinics, that will clearly be a conflict of interest,' he said.

A Virgin spokeswoman denied that the profit share represented a conflict. ‘There are no financial kickbacks, and payments would have nothing to do with referrals,' she said.

GPs who sign up to the plan will pay Virgin a management fee to cover rent and staffing costs. On top of their NHS income and their share of the profits, they would receive an unspecified Virgin quality payment, roughly analogous to the quality framework, to ensure clinical standards are maintained.

Practice staff would become Virgin employees, and wear Virgin uniforms. All staff, including clinicians, would undergo Virgin customer training.

Virgin Healthcare

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