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Opportunities for entrepreneurs in the NHS

Monday, 11 June 2012.

When I first began work as a management consultant, I wanted to avoid NHS projects at all costs. Bureaucracy, inefficiency, unmotivated people, frustration were some of the words that would cloud my judgement when looking at the list of projects available.

nhsI did very well avoiding these projects for about a year, after which I was pretty much dragged onto an NHS project in Basildon, Essex.

6 months later I had left my job and was taking the plunge, setting up my own business…working in the NHS! Looking back, I feel such a fool to have shunned such a fascinating industry with so much potential. I want to tell you the reasons why the NHS is the perfect stomping ground for budding entrepreneurs.

Firstly, every business idea should start with a problem that needs solving, if you want to find one, look no further than the NHS. I embraced the NHS because quite simply, things are going wrong all over the place. There are so many things that could be improved. After 3 months of working with GP practices, I left armed with tonnes of ideas and it was more of a case of ‘which one’ rather than ‘how can I find one’.

We all have industry experience. It is always a good idea to start a business in an area you have some experience with. You wouldn’t start a florist without knowing your peony from your hyacinth would you?  Another great thing about the NHS is that all of us have had a decent amount of contact with it. All of us are patients and can form a pretty valid opinion about how well services are being delivered.

There are also few barriers to entry. despite popular belief, I think the biggest barrier to starting a business associated with the NHS is people’s perception of how complex the system is. One of the reasons many people don’t start healthcare businesses is because they are afraid of the unknown. It’s not that difficult to understand what is going on if you put your mind to it. Once you have a basic understanding of how the money flows through the system, you know all you really need to know as to where the opportunities to build a business lie.

Also, the industry is less risky Starting any business comes with its risks. One of the problems with this is that even if you have the risk profile, lots of people who you rely upon (e.g. investors and the banks) may not share your appetite. This can make it tough to get your business off the ground. With the NHS, one thing I have really benefitted from is the fact that the industry is not going to disappear any time soon. The recession has done little to affect the demand for health services and if your clients are GP practices or hospitals, you are protected from the risk of your potential customers not being able to pay for services or going out of business. If an investor is deciding whether or not to part with his hard earned money to helping you succeed, this is definitely something that will win him or her over.

Now is a great time for both entrepreneurs and also for the NHS. There is more support for entrepreneurs than ever before; and the new Health and Social Care bill (which is now Law) has also led people in the industry to really embrace innovation. Entrepreneurs should be looking to moving this industry forward and putting their minds to starting new enterprise here.

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