Speculation is growing that the Virgin group is on the verge of bursting into the UK’s primary care sector through the purchase of a string of Darzi-esque GP super surgeries.

According to media reports, Richard Branson’s business Virgin Healthcare is the number one suspect as most likely suitor for the healthcare division of primary and community healthcare services provider Assura, which, Pulse Magazine reports, has won or been awarded preferred bidder status for more than 70 primary care trust tenders for GP related services.

Just a few weeks ago the group won a contract from NHS Birmingham East and North to establish a new GP practice that will offer extended opening hours and “an increased range of health facilities relevant to the needs of the local population”, despite its uncertain future.

Following a pretty tough period for the firm, in which its GP business reportedly continued to pile up losses keeping its share price depressed, Assura admitted last month that it was in early talks with a potential buyer for its healthcare arm.

And rumours that the Virgin group is orchestrating a takeover of the division were further fuelled by comments from unnamed sources quoted by The Daily Telegraph, which claimed the move is just one potential acquisition currently being considered by Sir Richard’s group in its re-attempt to enter the primary care sector.

Virgin Healthcare has long been seeking a route into general practice. In early 2008, the group said it was planning to open a series of GP-led surgeries across the country, but was later forced into a retreat reportedly because of difficult economic conditions.

The firm did say it remained “very committed” to gaining a foothold in the sector and that it would take another look when the economic climate improved, according to the Health Services Journal, and if the current speculation is to be believed that time has now arrived.

A spokesperson for Assura declined to comment to PharmaTimes UK News on the rumours.