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Melissa Morris’ Lantum aims to heal NHS staffing issues

Written by Eric Johansson on Monday, 15 October 2018. Posted in Scaling up, Interviews

By cutting out expensive agencies from the recruitment of temporary staff, healthtech startup Lantum aims to save the NHS millions

Melissa Morris’ Lantum aims to heal NHS staffing issues

Lantum wants to revolutionise how the NHS recruits temporary staff. No easy task considering the increasing financial restraints put on the healthcare services. But the co-founder and CEO Melissa Morris is feeling bullish about the challenge.

Inspiration for the idea came when she was working for the NHS’s strategy directorate. “During my time there I saw first-hand how billions of pounds were being spent on recruitment agencies and how inefficient the processes were for temporary recruitment and I could not understand why no one had thought to fix it,” she explains. Recognising the old axiom that if you want something done well then you better do it yourself, Morris went to work. “I knew I could provide a service that could streamline the process and save the NHS millions on expensive locum and agency fees,” she says. “So in 2012 I founded Lantum to build a platform that changes the way temporary recruitment is organised.”

But how does it work? “Lantum is a total workforce platform which helps healthcare organisations fill the maximum number of shifts,” Morris explains. “We do this by enabling them to manage their own network of clinicians and introducing them to new clinicians within their area.” To provide clinics and temporary staff with as much flexibility as possible, Lantum also automates processes like payment, time sheets and pensions form submissions. Not only does this help clinics and provide doctors with more flexibility to how they work but it also cuts out the middleman – the expensive agencies.

Morris’ first step to realise the vision was to create a blog to share her thoughts and a Facebook group where clinicians could offer their insights. And before she had even built her product, the community blew up to over 2,000 members.“[It] assured me of the demand for such a product on the market,” she explains. Hearing from both the clinics as the medical professionals on the site assured her the product could bring a positive change to the market.

It also convinced investors her venture was something worth betting on. Having initially bootstrapped the project with some money from her grandmother, the engagement she received from potential customers assured an angel investor that Lantum was safe enough for a £700,000 backing. “This initial investment enabled me to build the product I wanted to and launch the platform,” she says.

With this cash injection safely in the bank she hired a developer and set out to create her minimum viable product. “Our first product was very different to the one we now use but it allowed us to explore what needed to be built to deliver the kind of service we had in mind,” Morris says. The first iteration of the platform was essentially just a job board enabling professionals to advertise or apply for jobs. As customers started to interact with it, Morris and her team realised what needed to change to streamline the process of finding and hiring temporary staff. Still, it was clear it was a great first shot at fixing the NHS’s broken recruitment system. “[This] platform was a key milestone and the job board remains a central element of the product today,” she says.

Given the success of the original platform, it’s hardly surprising investors eventually lined up to inject money into the budding startup. “Our 2014 series A fund round happened when I went back to McKinsey & Co – where I worked before I joined the NHS – to give a talk on entrepreneurship,” Morris explains. “A girl in the audience left McKinsey to join a VC shortly after the talk and suggested I meet the partners of her new company. The meetings went well and they ended up investing.” With the VC firm Piton Capital signed on as lead investor, it was only a question of time before Playfair Capital and Beringea joined the £3.2m round. “Our first investment allowed us to really focus on improving the product,” Morris explains. She and her team spent the next two years perfecting the product and ironed out every kink they could find.

Lantum raised a $7m series B round in 2016, again with Piton Capital as its lead investor. They were joined by the previous two investors and VC firm Business Growth Fund and private equity investor Samos Investment. “Our 2016 funding round allowed us to improve and grow our company in different [ways],” Morris says. “We moved away from a purely marketplace product and into an end-to-end solution to temporary staffing and we were able to rebrand the entire company to make a clear statement about our direction and purpose.” The money also enabled her to expand the team, hire more experienced staff and continue to improve the product.

Her success is particularly interesting considering the sector she’s operating in. “Healthcare is a sector that has been late to the tech revolution,” she says. “This is for a number of different reasons.” Indeed, not only is the NHS a massive organisation but it’s also divided into 135 acute non-specialist trusts, 17 acute specialist trusts, 54 mental health trusts and ten ambulance trusts. The structure and culture have made it particularly slow to change  – a trait it shares with most regulated industries. Moreover, innovating in the medical field comes attached with lots of risks and regulatory hoops for entrepreneurs to jump through. “If the IT systems are flawed or fail completely, it can have serious consequences for rotas, appointments, medical results and patient records and data,” Morris says.

But things have changed in the past few years. Not only are companies like high-tech prosthetics startup Open Bionics and digital health company Medopad reaping success on an international stage but there is also a whole healthtech revolution happening across the UK. “Recently, attitudes have changed,” says Morris. “It has become clear, especially over the past year, that the NHS will only survive if it embraces technology. The NHS is adjusting to the changing demographics and health issues and the strategy is in desperate need of a rethink. Healthtech is therefore emerging as one of the most innovative sectors as companies and individuals are able to receive the investment to develop products that have the potential to dramatically impact healthcare in the UK.”

And Lantum clearly intends to lead the healthtech revolution. Having already introduced the service for smaller clinics, the startup now aims to introduce it to hospitals as well as expanding the service to all healthcare professionals – including nurses and receptionists. “We have invested millions to build a product that is right for the sector and we are now ready to distribute it and introduce it to hospitals and trusts around the country,” Morris concludes.

About the Author

Eric Johansson

As acting web editor and resident Viking, Johansson ensures EB is filled with engaging and eclectic entrepreneurial stories. While one of our most prolific tech writers, he has sharpened his editorial teeth by writing about entertainment and fitness. Follow him on Twitter at @EricJohanssonLJ to catch up with his stream of consciousness.

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