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Virgin Healthcare makes first attempt to get doctors interested in clinics

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LONDON The Virgin Group, owned by Sir Richard Branson, launched its first foray into Britain’s National Health System primary healthcare market Thursday with a call to family doctors to join them in establishing a network of branded clinics, the Financial Times reported.

After two years of planning, Virgin Healthcare’s decision embarked on its first advertising campaign Thursday to stir interest among family doctors in joining one of six “one-stop-shop” health centers, the first of which is set to open later this year. The centers would offer services from homeopathy to therapy, as well as typical general practitioner services.

Under the business model, Virgin would manage funds the doctors receive for staff costs and rental. Virgin would then offer a range of additional NHS and private services to visiting patients, including dentistry, screening, a pharmacy “and a range of conventional and complementary therapies,” according to the Times

Mark Adams, Virgin Healthcare chief executive, was quoted as saying that while GPs would retain their existing contracts, “it would change the delivery model from something designed in 1946 to something that better serves today’s world.”

The government has stated that it is looking to open 250 new GP practices and health centers over the next few years, 100 surgeries in under-doctored areas, and 150 other new health centers with extended opening hours elsewhere in the country. Mark Britnell, director of commissioning at the department of health, said ?250 million ($489 million) per year had been earmarked for the new services, “and we are very pleased that Virgin and others are prepared to offer them”.

Virgin’s plan differs from existing models in the U.K. by its use of the Virgin brand name. Assura, another company involved in the health centers, simply provides capital and project management, while Alliance Boots just leases space in its Poole store to the NHS.

Virgin is planning a “road-show” through 26 U.K. towns and cities to explain its plans in more detail to doctors. The group is recruiting dentists, therapists and hygienists, dental nurses and health center managers.

Ben Bradshaw, health minister, welcomed the launch. “I am pleased that Virgin Healthcare is proposing to work with GPs to help develop more integrated services for patients,” he was quoted by the Financial Times as saying. “We want to see the fullest possible range of service providers, including independent sector partners, developing innovative proposals to promote better health, improve patient access and develop more personalized care for patients”.

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