Bupa, the UK's largest private healthcare group, has put all of its 26 UK hospitals up for sale in a deal which could fetch £1.2bn.

Bupa treated 800,000 patients last year - 5 per cent of them NHS cases - and the sale would signal a major shake-up of the private healthcare market in the UK. Bupa is likely to use the proceeds from a sale to fund a major push into care homes - it owns 300 in the UK and has been expanding overseas. Potential buyers include Australia's Macquarie Bank and French private healthcare group Générale de Santé.