Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group enters healthcare business

Virgin Group Ltd, a British conglomerate founded by maverick tycoon Sir Richard Branson, has entered the healthcare business by acquiring a majority stake in the loss-making medical division of Assura Group, the UK's biggest private owner of general practitioner (GP) surgeries.

Virgin Group acquired a 75.1-per cent stake in Assura's healthcare arm, Assura Medicals for £4 million. Assura said that it will reinvest the sale amount into its remaining 24.9 per cent stake.

Assura Medical's GPCos are healthcare provider organisations formed in partnership with groups of GPs.

Assura Medical operates 30 GPCos, representing more than 1,500 GPs with 150 staff and service more than 3 million patients in England.

They provide a range of high quality primary and intermediate community-based NHS services, including outpatient services, diagnostic procedures, day care surgery and GP-led health centres.

In the six months to 30 September 2009, Assura Medical incurred a loss before tax of £4.4 million on turnover of £0.1 million.