Mr Branson was on the receiving end of backlash when Virgin took legal action against the NHS in 2016. Virgin Care – a private provider of publicly funded community health and social services – lost out on an £82million contract to provide children’s health services in Surrey. The company cited concerns over “serious flaws” in the way the contract was awarded. The NHS settled the legal dispute in November 2017 with an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum.
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NHS Surrey Downs clinical commissioning group (CCG) initially disclosed that the fee awarded in the case was £328,000 in its October public finance papers, the Health Service Journal reported at the time.
The move provoked a barrage of criticism.
A petition calling for Mr Branson and Virgin to return the money to the country’s health service gathered over 100,000 signatures.
It stated: “When the NHS is under severe financial pressure, it cannot afford to lose this money.
Virgin: Branson denied suing the NHS (Image: getty)
Virgin: The NHS is under pressure during the coronavirus outbreak (Image: getty)
‘Richard Branson, however, with an estimated personal wealth of over £3.5billion, can manage perfectly comfortably without it.
“This petition asks that Virgin Care returns the money to the National Health Service, and asks Richard Branson to apologise and make a personal commitment that Virgin Care will never again sue the NHS after losing out on a contract.”
Virgin Care’s co-founder, Dr Vivienne McVey, claimed the money from the NHS settlement went into developing services for patients as she penned an article titled: “Why it’s wrong to say we sued the NHS because we lost a contract in Surrey.”
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Virgin: Branson also founded Virgin Atlantic (Image: getty)
She said: “Virgin Care has never made a profit and the Virgin Group has actually invested more than £75million across the UK in people and technology, supporting doctors and nurses in their jobs and significantly reducing waiting lists.”
Mr Branson publicly pledged that when it does make a profit, all profits and dividends (over and above his investment) will go back into helping NHS patients.
While Virgin has tried to bat away the controversy, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus has brought Branson’s businesses back under scrutiny.
This came as he warned the pandemic has left his businesses in a “massive battle to survive”.
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Virgin: Branson has asked for a government bailout (Image: getty)
Virgin: Branson’s Necker Island (Image: getty)
In a blog post he said: “Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped.
“Our people have and, will always be, my number one priority. It is their future job security and their wellbeing that I am 100 percent focusing on, in these frightening and unprecedented times.”
The billionaire asked for £500million of taxpayers’ money to help keep Virgin Atlantic afloat, but came under fire as many pointed out his enormous net worth.
He responded to this criticism by offering up Necker Island – while also denying that he left the UK for tax reasons.
He said this week: “Joan and I did not leave Britain for tax reasons but for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island, which I bought when I was 29 years old, as an uninhabited island on the edges of the BVI.
“Over time, we built our family home here. The rest of the island is run as a business, which employs 175 people.
“As with other Virgin assets, our team will raise as much money against the island as possible to save as many jobs as possible around the Group.”