Virgin Care began running 334 GP practices as 50:50 partnerships with the GPs. When Clinical Commissioning Groups were introduced with the implementation of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act , some of those GPs became commissioners of services. To avoid a conflict of interest, Virgin Care severed the partnerships and took over sole running of the practices. Virgin Care continues to run GP surgeries directly as well as many other contracts.
Virgin Care makes its profits from GP practices by employing fewer GPs. For example, the King's Health Practice in Northampton was taken over by Virgin in 2010. Three GPs were reduced to one and waiting times to see the GP went from three days to three weeks. At one point the service was delivered by locum doctors for five months while the only GP remaining at the practice was on leave. Virgin promised extended surgery opening hours, which it did do, but no clinical staff were present!
Dr John Lister said:
Now we can see [then Health Secretary Andrew] Lansley's nightmare vision of the NHS taking shape, as the full chaos of cuts coupled with privatisation hits services around the country
In 2012 Virgin Care was awarded a £650-million contract to run NHS community health services in Surrey. This included; community nursing, health visiting, physiotherapy, diabetes treatment and renal care, prison health care and sexual health services. Virgin Care took provision of these services away from the local NHS hospital and ironically also from the government's flagship mutual - Central Surrey Health.
Max Pemberton, a junior doctor writing about life on the NHS front-line, said Virgin Care's takeover exposed the government's claim that health reforms have been underpinned by patient choice :
What real choice did the people of Surrey have in who provided their community health services? None. The choice was made by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who use 'public consultation' as a fig leaf for fundamentally changing the nature of how healthcare is delivered. Increasingly, the details of these decisions and the contracts that are drawn up are deemed commercially sensitive, so we are not privy to what is happening to our NHS and our money.