The country's biggest care services company for adults with severe learning disabilities has been bought by Anglo-American buyout firm GI Partners for an undisclosed fee.
Care Aspirations, based in Colchester, Essex, looks after patients who need 24-hour care with conditions including epilepsy, autism and Asperger's syndrome. The funding for the firm's services, which include residential and day care, comes from the NHS.
It is the latest move by private equity firms into an area seen as a defensive investment in the current economic climate as the government outsources more mental health care into the private sector.
In 2004, GI Partners also bought psychiatric rehabilitation firm Cambian, which focuses on residential care for children.
The company currently operates 11 wholly-owned facilities with a total of 102 beds, mostly in the South-East, is developing a further four sites and has around 470 staff.
GI plans to grow the business through acquisitions in a sector which it regards as fragmented but offering strong growth opportunities.
Saleem Asaria, who has been appointed as chairman of the firm, said Care Aspirations "provides the ideal springboard for our growth strategy".
GI Partners managing director Alfred Foglio added: "We are very pleased with the acquisition. The business leads with operational excellence, its customers recognise this fact and everything else falls into place."
"I do not believe that Care Aspirations is anywhere near the country's largest provider of 'services for adults with severe learning disabiities'. I dont know who has the most beds but I do know that its not Care Aspirations." - Peter Handy, North London