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Network Locum bags $7M to grow its doctor staffing platform

TechCrunch TechCrunch 4/07/2016 Natasha Lomas

London-based healthcare startup Network Locum, which has built a staffing platform and workplace management software targeting the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), has closed a £5.3 million ($7M) Series B funding round, led by UK fund BGF Ventures.

The startup was founded by a former McKinsey and NHS consultant, Melissa Morris, back in 2011 after she saw an opportunity to undercut fees being charged by recruitment agencies via a matching platform to help fill temporary staffing vacancies.

Network Locum is both workplace management SaaS and a marketplace of locum staff. It also handles payment for temporary staff, remitting locums fortnightly for completed shifts.

“We give them a software to manage their own staff (SaaS) and then fill empty slots via access to our marketplace,” explains Morris. “We also manage time sheets, payroll and expedited payment to doctors.”

The platform uses several criteria to match locums with vacancies, according to Morris, including their location, whether a particular doctor has worked at a particular hospital/GP surgery before, and the doctor’s searching intent — so things like the type of work they were searching for.

Other preferences they have expressed to Network Locum’s onboarding team may also be factored in, she says.

“The NHS spends 75 per cent of its costs on staff, it’s one of the biggest employers in the world. There are huge amounts of manual work that goes into staffing, using agencies and also via full time employees who work within hospitals and GP practices acting like in house recruiters. Most of this work can be automated and when you add a layer of intelligence you can match clinical staff with shifts quickly, cheaply and fill substantially more shifts,” adds Morris.

While there is an element of automation about how Network Locum plugs NHS staffing gaps, she says hospitals do have “the final say” on hiring people they don’t work with regularly. Locums on the platform are also fully vetted by Network Locum, and there’s a two-way feedback process built in.

At this point the platform has 5,000 locums actively using it, and a total of 40,000 registered. The team has been using social media, such as a Facebook advice-sharing forum it created, to recruit many of the doctors on its platform so far. “Now it’s a lot through referrals, with 70 per cent of new doctors being referred by a friend,” she adds.

On the paying customers front Network Locum has around 1,200 at this point. Morris says it started its sales push with GP surgeries owing to shorter sales cycles but it’s now aiming to ramp up its focus on hospitals. Currently it’s providing services to “several” hospitals in London, Manchester and Birmingham — and says it’s expecting to sign contracts with “several major NHS hospitals and local authorities later this year”.

The business model is to charge hospitals and GP practices based on a percentage of the locum hours booked, rather than for usage of the SaaS staff management platform.

Morris isn’t breaking out the exact fee structure at this point, saying it’s about to launch a new SaaS based fee structure so its current pricing will be out of date soon, but she adds: “We charge a fraction of the cost of an agency, much of the functionality is free. A GP practice saves about £20K a year and a urgent care centre saves £120K a year.”

It will be using the new funding to increase its salesforce and make a big push into the hospital sector, noting it is currently tendering for major government contracts. The funding will also be used to improve features on its mobile app which lets clinical staff manage their hours.

The startup previously raised £3.2 million from investors, including Piton Capital, a marketplace specialist investor.

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