The NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Pitstop

The NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Pitstop


Last month we hosted the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme ‘February Pitstop’ at our Lovely Havas HKX London office in St Pancras Square. The Pitstop is a monthly meeting that brings NHS staff and wider health professionals together to help develop their entrepreneurial business aspirations. Industry experts from media, marketing, legal and digital fields all attend and offer their advice to the group. In this blog, Dr. Tapas Mukherjee tells us a little more about the programme, and what happened during the Feb Pitstop!

*Please note that this event was held before the UK was in the grip of a pandemic and large public gatherings were not of any concern. Havas takes the health of all its employees & visitors very seriously and appreciates the situation has changed since the article was written. However, we feel that this is article is still appropriate to share our experience and collaboration with NHS England. 

The Brain Behind the Programme

The entire programme is run for ‘free’, through the herculean efforts of Professor Tony Young, The National Clinical Director for Innovation at NHS England, and his team of dedicated employees. He is himself an entrepreneur, thought leader, policymaker, and despite all of this, still an NHS consultant surgeon. Prof Young is one of those annoyingly efficient people who makes you question what you have been doing with your own life. Think ‘medical version of Richard Branson’ and you probably have an idea of what it feels like to be in his presence.

Tony Young
Professor Tony Young

The Standard you Walk Past is The Standard You Accept

The genius of the programme is that it helps to keep NHS staff in their precious and valuable day jobs whilst receiving world-class education and support to grow their own ideas for improving the services they provide. The meetings are spaced and timed such that attendees don’t need to sacrifice what they offer clinically in order to get access to the many training sessions and mentors available through the scheme. Aside from the obvious benefits to the public of keeping people in the NHS, the programme offers the attendees something far more relevant in today’s society: a sense of community and belonging. We were able to witness and appreciate this ourselves. The programme represents a growing body of people who believe in each other, and encourage each other to say ‘yes’ when it can feel like the rest of the world is ready to say ‘no’ to each and every good idea.

In most large organisations, the developing and implementing of new ideas to improve the service can often get deprioritised as employees are focussing on their everyday roles. The NHS is no different.

Being an important cog in a very important machine also means that moving in a new direction is not easy, even when it is for the benefit of all. Taking a new approach, challenging the status quo or disrupting what has gone before, will require the support and understanding of those around you. This support may not be immediately available because it is human nature to ’embrace’ ideas at different stages. This can leave budding entrepreneurs feeling like they are swimming against the tide, or worse still, alienated. The NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme recognises this challenging dynamic and is instead designed to facilitate innovation. Support for promising ideas is a given and everybody attends with a refreshingly positive approach to tackling the problems the NHS is facing, with a myriad of thoughts and ideas for services that might just help to solve them.

Last month’s session was hosted by the Havas Lynx Group Medical Director, Dr. Tapas Mukherjee, himself a former NHS physician. Tapas was one of the first NHS England Clinical Entrepreneurs accepted on to the programme by Tony Young, and, even though he has now left the NHS, he continues to attend as one of the programme’s many mentors, along with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vernon Bainton. During Tapas’ time in the CEP, he turned medical guidelines into music and put them on YouTube for all to see, the results were a doubling of the number of doctors using the guidelines across his Trust. It proved so effective it received innovation awards from both The British Thoracic Society and NHS England and even featured in TIME Magazine in 2013.

In his own words, “we have a habit of making education for doctors really dry. In reality, doctors, nurses, (and anyone else working in a clinical environment), thinks and acts like any other human being. We like to be entertained, and find it easier to remember things when they’re presented well. Turning the guidelines into an engaging and fun story helped people remember them, and it didn’t have any negative impacts in terms of how the public perceived us. Far from it, it probably helped raise awareness of the importance of getting treated properly”.

The theme of storytelling featured heavily at the event: The opening session (Data vs. Storytelling) was led by Rachael McLoughlin, Head of Digital at Havas Lynx Group. Rachael has an intricate understanding of the need to understand your product from the perspective of your target market, having worked with a number of organisations from across both consumer and healthcare.

Using everyone’s favourite burglar deterrent (Macauly Culkin from Home Alone) as an example, she showed how the same story arc can be used to create Hollywood stories and healthcare product pitches. She even managed to deliver a healthy dose of childhood nostalgia on the way.


Rachael McLoughlin and Dr Tapas Mukherjee

In some respects, NHS staff spend a lot of their day pitching ideas. It might be a pitch about the importance of taking medication with a patient, it might be a pitch about why one investigation is better than another with a colleague, or it might even be the dreaded pitch over the phone about why the ICU consultant should come and see your patient at 2 am. In any case, the storytelling session was well received and generated a lot of interesting discussions from enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

Putting your head above the parapet

One of the less well-understood aspects of ‘selling yourself’ comes in the form of social media. Medical environments are usually filled with confidential information which is (rightly) kept hidden from public view. The need to respect a patients’ privacy often conflicts with the wish to speak about the work one is doing in healthcare publicly and so many NHS staff find it easier to avoid mixing work life with social media. There is also a fear of being ‘trolled’ by somebody else if you publicly share a personal opinion. How do budding entrepreneurs use the power of social media for their own products or services in this tricky environment? Fortunately, to answer this question, help was at hand in the form of our afternoon session hosted by the ever-enthusiastic and hugely knowledgeable Director of Media and Performance, Sarah Price.

Sarah presented some eye-opening truths about social media. One of the most eye-watering perhaps being the amount of money Facebook receives per year from its advertising (it’s quite a few billion dollars!). From this, it became apparent that while social media platforms are used as a casual way to contact friends, they are actually geared up to be efficient targeted advertising platforms. Sarah took us through the many online tools (many of them free) which exist purely to enable entrepreneurs and business to tell the world about themselves and spelled out the importance of understanding your audience, right down to what time of day they are most likely to be browsing their phone and receptive to your message.

To further highlight this, we then brought in the case study of our own Associate Scientific Director, Kristian Webb. Kristian began life as a cardiac physiologist in a busy London NHS Hospital, but much like Tapas, soon realised that the way information was being shared with patients was suboptimal. Members of the public were left to fill in the gaps in their knowledge on public forums, answering each other’s queries, often with humorous, but sometimes alarming suggestions. Kristian decided he had to do something, and started his own medical education website, and turned to social media to drive awareness of it. What began as a simple offering about pacemakers soon grew into a movement with a large online following. He even attracted interest (and eventually a job offer) from the pacemaker companies themselves, when their website positions on Google search fell so much that they realised they could ignore him no longer.

The day ended with a round of pitch practice from the NHS Entrepreneurs. There were some outstanding ideas for new products and services. People laughed, clapped, and cheered each other on, in the true spirit of learning and collaboration. The HKX Forum bubbled with life and enthusiasm. Then, the melting pot of skill and talent was released once more into the real world, ready to face another busy ward round, a relentless night shift, or a never-ending afternoon clinic. It’s humbling and exciting to think, that among these healthcare workers, we probably shook hands with one or two who will go on to change and shape the future of healthcare with their own offerings one day. Hopefully, the lessons we taught this day will help them towards that goal. But until then, we look forward to doing it all over again, the next time NHS England and Havas Lynx Group join forces, on the fantastic NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme.

Learn more about Havas Lynx Group here.

For details about the NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, please visit here.

To contact the author please email Tapas Mukherjee.