By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Richard Branson’s business empire is about to grow again as his Virgin Care organisation is about to take over Sheppey and Sittingbourne community hospitals as part of a £126 million deal.
The Virgin group will oversee the running of four new hospitals – Sittingbourne Memorial, Sheppey Community Hospital, Livingstone Hospital in Dartford and Gravesham Hospital in Gravesend.The community hospitals, community nursing, intermediate care, community neuro rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, podiatry and continence services will all transfer to Virgin Care. The company already runs similar services in other counties.
At present time all of the hospitals mentioned above are ran by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCH). It has been reported that Virgin will takeover on April 1st. Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust is one of the biggest providers of NHS community healthcare in the country with sites in Kent, London and East Sussex.
Seven bids were submitted but only four made the shortlist.The other bidders included Dartford and Gravesham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Darent Valley Hospital, and South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. The contract is worth just over £18 million a year over the next seven years, with an option to extend it another three years, if both parties agree later down the line.
Currently Sir Branson’s Virgin Care already holds almost 330 NHS contracts. In 2012 it landed a £500 million, five-year contract to run community health services in Surrey. Only last year Virgin Care secured a £64 million five-year contract to run Wiltshire’s community health services, which had been a provided by a total of five NHS providers
Last year it won a £64 million five-year contract to run community child health services in Wiltshire which are currently provided by five separate NHS providers. That contract will also start in April.