When childhood friends Philip Braham and David Green launched Remedium Partners from a garden shed back in 2013, their vision was bold: they’d use £20,000 of their own money to start a venture which would source hundreds of highly skilled permanent doctors from overseas so the NHS wouldn’t have to rely on expensive locums to plug staffing gaps. Nearly five years later, they have placed over 600 permanent doctors and estimate they have saved the NHS in excess of £50 million in agency fees.
The idea sprang from Philip’s time at a medical recruitment agency and his resulting frustration with the locum agency model, which charged the NHS high fees in return for temporary fixes. “Placing temp and perm doctors in the NHS at the same time is a contradiction in terms,” Philip says. “There was a real conflict of interest: temporary recruiters would actually be disappointed when the agency secured a permanent doctor because they saw that it would impact their future commission. The system costs the NHS extra money and it’s truly a case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.”
Together, he and David, who had been working in financial services in Hong Kong, saw that there was an opportunity to bring together their two skills sets and develop a permanent-only medical recruitment consultancy which gave the NHS a long-term, cost-effective solution to its doctor shortage: the pair say that for every permanent doctor they place, the NHS saves at least £100,000 in locum fees over a year.
Their business has grown rapidly and their two man team has expanded to 22 in London. They are just about to up-scale offices for the second time, having outgrown their current one, and will operate from London’s vibrant King’s Cross area. In addition, they have another team of five resourcers based in India, which is headed up by business development director, Priyen Potnis. Together, the operation sources doctors to work in the specialist areas of A&E, anaesthetics, radiology, paediatrics and acute and general medicine.
Tapping into the pool
Underpinning the business is their knowledge that, while the NHS is struggling to find enough doctors from the UK to deliver the highest standards of care, there is a rich talent pool of highly qualified candidates overseas who would not only benefit the NHS, but who would also welcome the chance to work for it. Since Remedium Partners doesn’t want to fill the gaps at one Trust by taking doctors from another, it doesn’t actively recruit in the UK. “UK doctors are welcome to use our services, of course,” says Philip. “But, ultimately, we want to bring extra talent to our hospitals, rather than simply move it around.” Consequently, they have sourced their doctors from over 60 overseas locations including the Indian subcontinent, North America, South East Asia and the Commonwealth.
This global approach means that a lot of time has also been invested into creating partnerships with medical schools and healthcare organisations, in order to establish Remedium Partners as a sector leading consultancy. The team works closely with the Samson PLAB Academy in London, for example, which prepares graduates from overseas medical schools to practise in the UK. “We supply those who are looking to transfer to the NHS with information on the various options available to them,” explains David.
The UK-based Remedium team also travel overseas to ‘go to the source’ and are often accompanied by representatives from British NHS trusts and Irish health providers who are keen to meet potential doctors in person. They most recently travelled to Mumbai with senior representatives from a leading NHS University Hospital Trust. “It’s a joint overseas recruitment drive and it’s proving to be really successful,” says Philip. “A face to face meeting means that Trusts can really take an active part in the whole candidate journey.”
In addition, India-based Priyen and his team regularly meet with the heads of staffing departments and the deans of colleges across the country to talk about the long-term advantages for Indian hospitals if doctors go to the UK for five or six years before returning, which he says is the typical pattern.
Their practice of recruiting at source really helps the team understand the challenges overseas doctors might face in uprooting to start a new life working for the NHS. They say that common concerns include finding a home in a suitable location, arranging schooling for their children and setting up bank accounts. To assist with this, the consultancy has an entire Care and Transition (CAT) team dedicated to supporting all Remedium-placed doctors in coming to the UK. “We don’t secure jobs for doctors then just forget about them, we don’t place without a trace: we really do have a ‘Remedium family.’,” says Philip. “We care deeply about helping them to settle in and we want them to feel truly welcomed and valued. We believe in long term relationships and organise social events throughout the year.”
The personal touch
This kind of unique service can only be delivered by a team who are really committed to what they do, and it’s for this reason that Remedium Partners only recruits people who fit in with its culture of hard work and professionalism. “We aren’t corporate,” says David. “It’s more personal and familial than that. We don’t hire based on background or qualifications: we look at attitude. We can teach technique and mould the rest.” As part of their growth, the two founders have recently hired in several functional areas too, including marketing, business development, finance and HR, reflecting the growing professionalism of the business. They are also looking forward to welcoming several new employees over the next few months in both sales and resourcing.
Training for newcomers is rigorous. When they join, they undertake an intensive two-week course designed to give them an in-depth understanding of the way NHS hiring works, including medical specialities, grades and levels, recognised qualifications including language tests and the methods of entry to the UK, such as through membership of a Royal College. “It’s vital that their knowledge is comprehensive so they can give expert advice to doctors,” says David. After the initial course, training is ongoing, with senior consultants leading weekly sessions which are scenario-based. “We might conduct mock telephone calls or present different clinical situations to our consultants to demonstrate what would be required of them or their candidates.”
While consultants clearly work hard to gain the necessary expertise, they are rewarded well, with benefits including not only the traditional bonuses and commission, but also share options, an early finish on Friday and the opportunity for international travel to destinations such as Dubai, Singapore and India. They firmly believe in acknowledging staff who go above and beyond, so also have a monthly ‘reward and recognition’ event, where high-achieving team members – and not just in the sense of sales – are treated to vouchers or a fun experience of their choice.
While the headcount has already grown rapidly, the pair plan to increase it further to 30 by the end of this year. “We have big plans,” says David. “We intend to open a new satellite office in India in the first quarter of 2019.”
“Eventually, we will be looking at Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.” Philip adds, “I want us to become the biggest player in medical recruitment in the world. I really want to revolutionise the NHS, eliminate unnecessary locum spend and get to a stage where Trusts only use permanent recruitment. If we can get the HR departments to move away from their habitual use of locums to fill gaps, it could transform the way the NHS and HSE are staffed for the better – not to mention saving huge amounts of money.”
To do this effectively, the company knows it needs to work in partnership with health leaders in the UK and Ireland, helping them with their long-term strategic workforce planning. “Changing these mindsets is absolutely key,” says Phillip. “We are making great progress with it: in 2018, we were recognised by the Health Service Journal as a Highly Commended Recruitment Services Provider, so we can build on that reputation until we are viewed as the recruitment partner of choice in the industry. Eventually, we could also look at providing nurses and GPs too.” Is there anything standing in their way? “At present, it is government regulations, such as the huge shortages of visas for overseas doctors,” says David. “However, we know the government and new Home Secretary has promised to address this, so we hope that this won’t always be the case.”
It’s clear that the friends and business partners have a clear vision for the direction they want to go in. Do they have any advice for other recruitment entrepreneurs? “Trust your gut. Be driven more by instinct and intuition, rather than advice and anecdotes – that is how you will succeed.” urges Philip. David adds: “Always be passionate about what you do – we love our jobs and wouldn’t have it any other way.”