Can Startups Save the NHS?

Staff Writer | Courier | November 25, 2016

Several tech founders are trying to break into the NHS. How will their smartphone-powered ideas get on in an institution sceptical of change, underpinned by a notorious tangle of IT and bureaucracy?

A near-sacred institution, the NHS has spent little time out of the public psyche since its inception in 1948. Today, far from being a celebrated feat of public welfare, each day brings a barrage of stories of closing hospital A&Es, cuts in funding, huge debts and an ageing population. Faced by a heavy funding deficit, demands vastly different to when the service was conceived, and shifts in politics and ideology, many believe the NHS is itself strapped to a life support machine.

Yet several enterprising individuals see something quite different in the NHS: a massive client with a £116bn annual budget, and the platform from which to unleash smartphone-powered medical products and services that could spread all over the world. The barriers are high, but if they can be overcome, there’s potential for the NHS to spawn an entire economy in the way that modern-day Silicon Valley sprawled out of Intel, or London’s creative economy was accelerated by the BBC.

In the last couple of years, millions of pounds from VCs and angel investors have been pouring into early stage British ‘medtech’ companies that are already, or have the potential to, sell into the NHS. Around 211 UK-based medical related companies have raised a combined £883m in the last five years, according to research firm Beauhurst. The NHS is, after all, a platform and client like no other in the world. It is unique in its size, scope and reputation, making it the ideal place to launch a health startup and prove a product’s effectiveness...