VIRGIN Care has reassured patients that services will be maintained as it takes over Lyme Regis Medical Centre today.

The company, which is part of the global Virgin Group founded by billionaire tycoon Richard Branson, welcomed its first patients to the Uplyme Road centre.

Virgin Care has signed the contract to take on responsibility for GP and community services at the practice following a period of ‘due diligence’.

The move follows a complex legal dispute over ownership of the medical centre building, which saw the eviction of Dr Ian Conway in November 2011.

NHS Dorset announced in September last year that Virgin Care was the preferred provider following a robust tendering process.

More than 30 expressions of interest were registered with NHS Dorset and Virgin Care beat 17 other bids to run the service.

NHS Dorset and Virgin Care have this week moved to reassure local residents that services remain funded by the NHS and continue to be accessible in the normal way.

Existing services will be maintained and Virgin Care’s aim is to work with staff and local residents to improve services over time and make them responsive to patient needs.

Bart Johnson, chief executive of Virgin Care, said: “We are delighted to have welcomed our first patients.

“Though most won’t notice any immediate changes we are looking forward to working with staff and patients over the longer term to make a real difference to everyone who uses Lyme Regis Medical Centre.”

Suzanne Rastrick, interim chief executive for NHS Dorset, said: “The contract to run services at Lyme Regis Medical Centre was awarded following a thorough tendering process.

“As a result we are confident that the new provider will be able to continue delivering a high standard of healthcare to local people.”

All existing staff working at the medical centre at the time of the management switch have transferred to the new provider with their existing terms and conditions maintained.

Reports on the public consultation are now available to view online.

NHS Dorset sought the views of local people and organisations between December 2011 and March 2012 on what they wanted from healthcare in the area.

View the reports from NHS Dorset at, Lyme Regis Medical Centre at, or Lyme Forward at