Pharmacist’s job app could be the best medicine for health services

22 Aug 2016

Jonathon Clarke, co-founder, Locate a Locum

TechWatch’s Emily McDaid outlines how job app Locate a Locum shows why being your own customer will drive success.

In 2014, new pharmacist Jonathon Clarke stumbled across a major gap in the market for pharmacies.

Although a large percentage of pharmacists work under temporary contracts as locums and, therefore, rely on shift work, there was no central platform for pharmacists and locums to find each other.

Future Human

Locums were left to travel to individual pharmacies brandishing business cards to find work. Pharmacies were left short of staff for holiday, sick or maternity cover.

Clarke realised that a simple matchmaking service was badly needed on both ends, to aid workers and employers.

“To remain open, legislation dictates that pharmacies need a registered pharmacist on the premises at all times. The locum market is vital for them,” said Clarke.

“At least 75pc of qualified pharmacists begin their career as locums to gain work experience and due to the lack of permanent positions.”

‘Legislation dictates that pharmacies need a registered pharmacist on the premises at all times. The locum market is vital for them’

Inspirefest 2017

Locate a Locum

With limited technical experience, Clarke hired a web developer to create Locate a Locum, developed in WordPress and still working to this day.

At least 650 pharmacists are registered in the service to find work. The web service is revenue-generating and Clarke says that at least 1,500 of the 14,000 pharmacies in the UK are using his platform to find temporary workers. With a major deal with a high-street chemist in the pipeline, that number could jump to 3,700. That’s a UK market penetration of more than 26pc – an admirable achievement for a nascent start-up.

“I always would have liked to start my own venture, but I didn’t study business and perhaps that led to a confidence issue,” said Clarke.

“Things have grown so fast with Locate a Locum this year that I left my pharmacy job in May to focus on it full-time. It’s not too great a risk for me, because I can work as a locum if needed. I am my own customer.”

Market opportunity

Locate a Locum plans to launch an improved bespoke platform created by freelance web developers at the Pharmacy Show, the industry’s biggest event in Birmingham this September.

When asked if he plans to branch out into locum doctors, Clarke said, “It’s important to start small, and capture and dominate your primary market first. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”

Once they are ready to diversify, there is a clear financial drive within the NHS for this type of service. The NHS is lambasted in the media on a regular basis for the huge fees paid to recruitment services to fill gaps in the labour market. Jeremy Hunt has even called for legislative changes to recruitment fees to form part of his NHS ‘reset’ plan.

Locate a Locum can offer a lower-cost option for employers. At present, the financial model hinges on a £15 per day fee that pharmacies pay to find a locum, while the service is free for the locums themselves.

“By eliminating the middleman, we allow pharmacies to speak directly to locums, unlike a recruitment agency, whose model involves large overhead costs paying staff to man the phones and monopolise all the communication between parties. We eliminate that,” said Clarke.

Long-term goals

Clarke’s aim is to penetrate the large pharmacy chains. “We’re currently in talks with Boots. We also need to get the word out to newly graduated pharmacists, and this means advertising within the universities, which we do regularly.”

Michael Budden, Locate a Locum

Michael Budden, co-founder, Locate a Locum

Currently participating in the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator and starting the Springboard mentoring programme in September, Locate a Locum is looking for investment of £300,000 to aid their development efforts and add to their growing team.

Clarke is joined by co-founder Michael Budden, who brings needed technical skills and UX design experience. The company will seek a CTO as well as a marketing professional once funding is secured.

Now, Locate a Locum is a finalist in the 2016 Invent Awards category Creative Media and Consumer Internet, which is sponsored by Aepona.

“We’re excited more than ever to sponsor the Invent Awards. The [internet of things] space is evolving, and it has infinite scope for different companies to seed themselves and innovate as part of the value chain. We want to see no stone unturned to make Northern Ireland’s share of it to happen,” said Deodatta Deshpande from Aepona.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

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