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Weighing up private provider services

In the coming weeks we will look at all the major players. This week Fiona Barr considers Assura's track record.

Assura started life in 2003 as the Medical Property Fund, set up to invest in GP and primary care property. It was renamed Assura Group in 2006 with three divisions, Assura Property, Assura Pharmacy and Assura Medical.

It has expanded from primary care premises provision to focus on joint venture partnerships with GPs to bid for provider services as well as running pharmacies in primary care centres.

It plans to become one of three or four major suppliers to the NHS by 2013, winning contracts for community-based outpatient services as well as for out of hours, long term conditions management, prison heath, dentistry and prescribing.

Assura details
Primary care presence: Assura has more than 130 investment properties in primary care and more than 30 pharmacies inside medical centres. The company also now partners with GPs to form joint venture organisations called GP Provider Companies (GPCos).

How it works: GPCos are owned 50 per cent by Assura and 50 per cent by GP practices. Start-up costs are met by Assura which provides infrastructure funding and management expertise to back GP bids for clinical services.

Success to date: 17 GPCos set up so far involving 1,057 GPs and a patient population of 2 million, mainly in England. A total of 28 community-based services have been commissioned to date covering areas including dermatology, minor surgery, urology, ophthalmology and flexi-sigmoidoscopy.

Plans for future: Target of 25 GPCos by 1 April 2009 involving 1,500 GPs and 3 million patients, commissioning 60 services. Long-term plan to be principal provider to 30 PCTs by 2013.

Worth noting: Does not provide core GP services.

Rating: Major player in primary care market.

Financial information: Listed on the London Stock Exchange, annual turnover grew from £16.1m in the 12 months to December 2006 to £40.7m in the 15 months to 31 March 2008. Currently making a loss on the medical and pharmacy divisions, the company made an overall profit of £12.6m and believes its plans for growth with GPCos and pharmacies will move both these arms of its business into profit.

Find out more: www.assuragroup.co.uk.

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