Virgin has appointed Capita Architecture to act as a design consultant for its new private health centres.

Virgin launched its healthcare division in January with the announcement that it would build six primary care centres before the end of 2009, and a further 13 by 2013.

It is understood Capita has been appointed to assist Virgin in feasibility and design studies for the first wave of building. The first centre, in Swindon, is expected to open next month.

Although this first phase is relatively small scale, sources suggest that Virgin has long-term plans to open as many as 300 primary care units in the UK. More than 3,000 GPs and practice workers attended a series of roadshows earlier this year intended to drum up interest.

A source said: “Branson wants to take on the big guns in the private health sector. If it was anyone else you’d think they were insane.”

Under Virgin’s business model, NHS GPs would enter into a private sector partnership with the firm.