Published: 11:06, 01 December 2021
| Updated: 09:55, 02 December 2021
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Care, which runs four of Kent's community hospitals, has been taken over.
The shock news was broken to stunned staff as they arrived at work this morning.
The business, which has run the wards at Sheppey Community Hospital, Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, the Livingstone Hospital in Dartford and Gravesham Community Hospital in Gravesend since 2016, has been rebranded to HCRG Care Group following a takeover by investment company Twenty20 Capital.
Virgin Care had more than 5,000 staff of which 447 work in north Kent. Bosses insisted there would be "no changes at all" on the frontline and stressed: "The senior management team is not changing. We are still running the business. The only thing different is that we have a new logo."
No money has changed hands in the top secret deal which suggests Sir Richard and the Virgin Group have been forced to write off their £75 million investment in healthcare.
A Virgin Group spokeswoman confirmed: "Sir Richard Branson publicly committed that Virgin Group would never make a profit over and above its investment in Virgin Care and we stand by this commitment. Importantly, Virgin is not recouping its investment either.
"Since acquiring the company in 2010, Richard Branson and the Virgin Group have invested more than £75 million in support of Virgin Care’s NHS and local authority partnerships and neither Virgin, nor its founder, has ever taken a penny from the business, committing instead to reinvest any returns back into the company and its frontline services."
She confirmed: "No money has been received by the Virgin Group or Sir Richard Branson as part of the transition to HCRG group."
Virgin Care was led by Dr Vivienne McVey who remains as chief executive officer following the takeover.
Virgin Group paid tribute to her "outstanding work" and her "incredible team" who have "worked tirelessly both before and during the pandemic, playing a critical role in supporting the UK’s health and care services.”
Dr McVey said: “Since we founded the business we’ve supported many millions of people up and down England and this investment by Twenty20 will allow us not only to continue that work but also build on our existing success.
“Whilst we have a new name, as HCRG Care Group it remains business as usual. Our team will continue to focus on changing lives by transforming health and care working with commissioners, communities and our hard-working frontline colleagues to deliver joined up, efficient but above all high quality services.”
A Twenty20 Capital spokesman said: "The acquisition of Virgin Care and rebranding to HCRG Care Group represents an opportunity to support a strong management team and broader workforce to deliver critical health and care services across the community.
"As an investor in healthcare services for more than 20 years, Twenty20 Capital is excited to support the company’s plans building on its strong market position whilst growing its services to provide outstanding service to customers.”
The acquisition is Twenty20 Capital’s seventh transaction of the year and its fourth acquisition in the health and social services sector.
Virgin Care won a £126 million contract to run north Kent's community hospitals in January 2016 for seven years after a two-year battle with Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and took over in the April.
It is also responsible for nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and healthcare assistants who visit patients in their own homes across north Kent.
Virgin Care became a major player in the market for NHS services since it entered the healthcare market in 2010 and was awarded contracts worth more than £2 billion.
It has has an option to extend its initial seven-year contract, which expires next September, by a further three years.
It is not yet known what Twenty20 Capital, which is based in Soho Square, London, has planned but its website boasts that it looks for "high return opportunities" across a "broad range of situations".
It is led by founding partners Tristan Ramus and Ian Munro who founded healthcare and social care recruitment group HCRG.
A spokesman for HCRG Health Group stressed: "This business is strong and in a good position financially to go from strength-to-strength under new ownership."