GPs withdraw from Virgin provider partnerships

 More than 300 GPs have withdrawn from partnerships with Virgin Care due to a potential conflict of interest between their provider and commissioner roles.

The 25 local provider companies, known as GPCos, set up since 2006 to provide NHS community services, will now be run by Richard Branson’s Virgin Care alone.

The GPCos were half-owned by GPs and half by Virgin Care (under its original name, Assura), and provided services including rheumatology, ophthalmology and dermatology.

A spokesperson for Virgin Care said: “Many of our GPs have become increasingly worried about the perception of potential conflicts of interest. Moving away from our partnership model removes this concern.”

According to Ian MacDonald, former Chair of the Assura Coventry GPCo, “The world has changed since we began working with Virgin Care, particularly in light of recent developments such as the Health and Social Care Act, and as GPs we want to ensure that there is a clear division between provision and commissioning.”

All of the former GPCos will be GP-free by April 2013, when the CCGs formally begin their commissioning role.