• Former Monitor boss David Bennett takes on role at Virgin Care
  • Mr Bennett replaces Graham Eccles, who spent nearly 10 years in the role
  • Mr Bennett led FT and competition regulation as the Lansley Act was passed

David Bennett, the former boss of the competition regulator Monitor, has been appointed chair of Virgin Care, HSJ has learned.

Mr Bennett led Monitor for five years until the former foundation trust regulator joined with the Trust Development Authority to form NHS Improvement in 2015.

The former McKinsey director has taken over the role from Graham Eccles. Mr Eccles was chair for nearly a decade and has left to “explore new opportunities”, the company told HSJ.

Mr Bennett, who was also an adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister, joined the company this month. Virgin Care provides a range of community, public health, primary care, and some specialist services for the NHS and local government.

The website’s biography for Mr Bennett says: “David Bennett became chairman of Virgin Care in October 2019, following a long and wide-ranging career in senior roles in the public and private sector.”

After leaving the NHS, Mr Bennett became chair of Viapath, a pathology services joint venture between Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital FT and Serco.

During his time at Monitor the organisation was due to be set up by the Health Act 2012 as a fully fledged competition regulator. Mr Bennett drew attention at the time for indicating the NHS could receive a similar approach to that which had earlier opened up public gas, electricity and telecommunications markets. Mr Bennett was also involved in early negotiations over the 2014 Five Year Forward View and subsequent funding settlement.

Recent contract wins for Virgin Care included an £85m joint community services project in partnership with a local NHS provider in Hampshire and Surrey, which was announced last month.

North East Hampshire and Farnham and Surrey Heath clinical commissioning groups gave the five-year contract across the two home counties to incumbent providers Frimley Health FT and Virgin Care Services Limited.

The company often attracts criticism from anti-private campaigners, including for taking legal action against NHS commissioners in 2017.

Virgin Care co-founder and chief executive Vivienne McVey said in a statement to HSJ: “Following more than a decade of dedicated service, and in line with good governance practice, our chairman Graham Eccles has stepped down from his role to explore new opportunities.

“I am very pleased that David Bennett has agreed to take up the role of chairman at Virgin Care. David has extensive knowledge of the health and social care systems, and his wide-ranging experience means he is well placed to guide Virgin Care through a time of considerable change in the NHS.”