As the NHS celebrates its 70 year birthday this year, the health service faces a number of well-documented challenges, not least around staffing.
Despite a recent £20 billion budget boost, the NHS is still facing huge financial pressures. An area that's been targeted in recent years is the billions the NHS spends on sourcing temporary doctors, known as locums, largely via agencies which take fat fees.
It's this issue that one tech startup has firmly in its sights. Lantum started out as a marketplace connecting locums with GP practices, cutting out the agency middleman.
The startup was launched in 2012 by CEO Melissa Morris, who had previously worked on NHS projects at consultants McKinsey before working for the health service directly on strategy during the latest major reorganisation. It was in this role that Morris got the idea for Lantum.
"I knew I wanted to solve a big problem within the NHS and I knew that really the biggest problem was staffing," Morris tells Techworld.
Morris has huge ambitions for the future. She aims to double the number of people using Lantum's platform every year from 4,000 currently. Lantum's team of 48 employees is expanding too.
When we sit down to talk, Morris is between meetings with investors. She's in fundraising mode, trying to drum up interest to add to the company's £10 million raised so far. Her hope is to use the new cash to help spread Lantum across more of the country and gain further market share.
"If everyone in the NHS used Lantum, it would save the service £1 billion a year," Morris claims.
Morris reserves some scorn for staffing agencies, which she sees as one of Lantum's main competitors.
"You look at these massive recruitment agencies. They're making 100 million revenue. I don't know how they're getting away with it given they're not even providing a better service," she says.
Lantum is starting to expand its 1,000-strong client base beyond GP practices to hospitals. It already works with 13 hospitals but hopes to increase this number over coming months.
Lantum's business model has changed since launch. It was originally a marketplace which helped healthcare providers connect with vetted temporary staff when they found gaps in their shifts. It has since become a wider platform for NHS workforce management.
"We realised that the marketplace was only solving part of the problem. The real problem lies in the bit before that, which is when you're trying to organise your own staff," Morris explains.
"It may be possible for you to never need an agency if you just connect better with your own staff," she adds.
Lantum's workforce management platform is basically a suite of software as a service tools, providing services for healthcare practices like e-rostering, compliance and shift booking. It also provides tools for doctors like diary management and expenses.
"All of this happens already in the NHS, but manually. We're only just bringing it all under one product," Morris says.
Despite impressive user numbers now, growth has been a long, hard slog since 2012. The team started out selling to individual GP practices, then to overarching GP practice groups. Rather than being brought in as part of a top-down NHS initiative, the strategy has been one of ‘land and expand', according to Morris.
"You have to build up local track records, trust and an evidence base with doctors. It is very time consuming so you have got to have a lot of patience. I don't think anyone's going to get rich quick in the NHS. The people who stand the test of time care about making a difference," she says.