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NHS Long Term Plan – PUBLIC Opinion

PUBLIC and its GovStart companies respond to the NHS Long Term Plan.

Earlier today the NHS unveiled the NHS Long Term Plan, detailing its vision for the next 10 years. It follows the release of Matt Hancock’s tech vision: The Future of Healthcare last year and, in line with the Health and Social Care Secretary’s focus on digital transformation, features a chapter on digitally-enabled care. Though not by any means the first long-term vision for the NHS, this paper has a far greater focus on digitisation than previous iterations.

From universal digital GP access (“digital first”) to plans to expand the scope of NHS Apps and replace the slow and clunky technology – such as fax machines – used by NHS staff, it is indicative of where the NHS is going and the increasingly prominent role of technology. Indeed, the report itself notes: “Virtually every aspect of modern life has been, and will continue to be, radically reshaped by innovation and technology – and healthcare is no exception.”

Several of our HealthTech GovStart companies – and members of the PUBLIC team – have shared their opinions on the NHS Long Term Plan:

Dr Barney Gilbert, Co-CEO of Forward Health:

“If we are to create a 21st century health service that can streamline provision and make the most of the budget available, then we must heed the comments made by Chancellor Philip Hammond today; “To meet this challenge, we must go back to our roots. We must be innovative… We in Britain built a health system…that pushed the boundaries and must do so again to deliver the needs of an ageing population in the 21st century.”

“Whilst our NHS services are in dire need of this additional funding, it’s innovation that will stop cash injections from being sticking plasters and instead turn them into pivotal moments for progress. Without innovative approaches to the integration of services, this simply won’t happen.

“The NHS has only recently started shedding its reticence towards innovation, despite years of calls to upgrade and digitise the service. Indeed, a few pioneering Trusts are now embracing new solutions across the board. But to achieve the level of cross-sector integration we need, we must fast-track this culture shift and explore new ways of increasing efficiency and breaking down silos. Empowering NHS staff with the digital tools they need to do their jobs is the place to start.

“Many of these innovations are simple; the technology already exists. We can ditch archaic technology, such as fax machines, landlines and pagers, and provide clinicians with new ways of communicating between and within wards via apps and bespoke messaging platforms. We can reduce the waste linked to staffing inefficiency by introducing new, fit for purpose platforms for recruiting and retaining staff. We can digitise appointments and move away from paper-based referrals at all levels through cloud-based software.

“Through these changes, we can create communication pathways from the point at which a patient comes into contact with the NHS all the way through to their discharge; allowing doctors and patients alike to access the information they need quickly. And that’s just for starters. These digital innovations will break down communications challenges to allow clinicians to treat patients quicker, reduce the burden of admin placed on medics, and provide NHS staff with the capacity needed to do their jobs properly instead of focusing on keeping their heads above water.”

Daniel Korski, CEO and Co-founder of PUBLIC:

“The NHS is no stranger to long-term plans but this tech-savvy, well-funded strategy looks set to be different. Indeed, there is probably no better time than now to push healthcare transformation given the advances of technology like AI and the growing need for a step change in prevention and treatment.”

Dr. Mahiben Marithappu, CEO of Cera:

“The NHS Long Term Plan’s focus on technology and out-of-hospital care is highly welcome. This combined with the Government’s record investment places the NHS on a strong footing to embrace the imminent health-tech revolution and offer world-class services. This however must be combined with a clear strategy and funding package for social care if it is to succeed.”

Hanna Johnson, COO at PUBLIC: 

“Better use of data and digital technology underpins much of what is talked about in the NHS Long Term Plan. We are already seeing innovative companies like Cera doing things differently in social care, Patchwork backing our workforce, and Flynotes helping the NHS to get the most out of taxpayer investment. In the coming years, GovTech will help transform all aspects of health and social care, so it’s right that it is a central part of the Government’s long term plan.”

Johnny Hugill, Researcher at PUBLIC:

“Government is right to recognise that technology should be at the forefront of any health and social care strategy. The key challenge now is to make sure that trusts are buying the right technology to deliver on these ambitious digital goals. To guarantee state-of-the-art-technology, as well as greater value for money for the taxpayer, it is crucial that procurement is opened up to smaller companies and startups, instead of relying on the same behemoth suppliers responsible for the outdated legacy systems we have today.”

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Future of GovTech /
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GovStart Year in Review

In 2018, PUBLIC supported 21 companies through our GovStart accelerator programme. From closing huge funding rounds to game-changing pilots, here’s what our GovStart companies got up to in 2018 – from beginning to end.



2018 was off to an exciting start with Flynotes – a medical consent platform – closing a Seed Funding Round.


Red Sift, a cyber security startup stopping phishing attacks, signs a deal to protect Ministry of Justice email accounts.


Adzuna, a search engine that collates every job listing from every site, starts DWP’s Universal Jobmatch contract worth over £7.5m.

Nick Clegg joins Cera’s Advisory Board.


GovStart is featured in the Evening Standard!


Cera closes a huge $17M Series A Funding Round.


PUBLIC receives over 300 applications for GovStart 2018! 


Our GovStart 2018 cohort begins their six-month programme with PUBLIC – welcome Forward Health, FreeUp, Futr., GoodBox, Headlight AI, Accelerated Dynamics, Kraydel, Patchwork, Sentient Machines, Strawberry Energy, Valerann, and Yo-Da!

Novoville wins the the Mayor of the West Midlands’ Urban Challenge Award for Citizen Participation.


Strawberry Energy raises £300K through a Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign.


Forward Health raise $3.9M in seed funding.

Futr. secures a pilot with Northamptonshire Police to develop a chatbot that can automate responses for low risk, high volume police 101 calls.


PUBLIC partners with Accenture to help support new technologies transforming public services.

Valerann’s Smart Road System is live in the M1 – they also win awards at TechFest and South Summit!

GoodBox is chosen to be a finalist at Pitch@Palace.



Patchwork announces an exciting new partnership with the British Medical Journal.

Kraydel agrees a pilot with Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust.



Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launches his winter homelessness campaign – using GoodBox technology.

So that was GovStart’s 2018 – what will 2019 look like? 

Want to keep up with our GovStart companies’ achievements throughout the year? Sign up to the PUBLIC newsletter here.

Intelligence / Interviews /
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From Public Servant to Startup Founder

PUBLIC’s Rachel Guthartz speaks to three tech startup founders who made the transition from the public sector, exploring what inspired them to make the move, and what advice they have for aspiring startup founders.

As a new member of the PUBLIC team, with a background working with NGOs, I was curious about other people who have made the transition into the world of tech startups. A high proportion of companies in both the 2017 GovStart cohort and PUBLIC’s wider portfolio have been started by former public servants. Given that beginning a startup is notoriously challenging, what sparks public servants into making the move?

I spoke to three GovTech founders who previously worked full-time in the public sector—Ben Maruthappu (CEO, Cera), Kate Glazebrook (CEO, Applied) & Govin Murugachandran (CEO, Flynotes)—to see what inspired them to start their own companies. A number of key themes quickly became clear …

Identifying Problems and Solutions

Each of the founders I spoke to developed their idea in direct response to their experiences in the public sector: whether it be the challenges they encountered, or a heightened awareness of policy-making priorities.

Read our interview about Flynotes ‘Digitising Consent’ here.

Govin Murugachandran, a maxillofacial surgeon, came up with the idea for Flynotes (a digital consent platform for the health sector), after routinely facing the inefficiencies and limitations of a paper-based consenting process currently used by the NHS—a process that, due to its largely inherent inaccuracies, has resulted in a sharp increase in litigation cases against the NHS in recent years.
For Ben Maruthappu, co-founder of Cera (a technology-enabled quality home care service), the possibilities of technology became clear during his time advising Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England: “I saw the opportunities that technology had to improve services while reducing costs […] Given the challenges on the health and care sector, I thought it was important to seize that opportunity and act on it”.

Kate Glazebrook, co-founder of Applied (a recruitment platform which focuses on fair hiring), was part of the the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) when she pitched her idea for Applied to BIT’s venture arm. Her research and professional experience—a former researcher at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Policy Officer in the Australian government—were crucial in increasing her awareness of the public sector priorities which make Applied so pertinent: diversity in the workplace, equality of opportunity, and fair hiring practices.

Public sector experience, then, can serve as a significant advantage in identifying key challenges that need solving. Ben, of Cera, emphasised this point flagging the thousands of companies and technologies that aren’t addressing real public sector problems: “Being able to draw from my public sector experiences, allows me to develop a much better solution”.

The Startup Founder/ Public Servant Overlap

Read our interview with Applied ‘The Future of Recruitment’ here.

The founders were quick to note how their experience in the public sector was also an advantage in developing the skills fundamental to building a startup. The process of identifying a problem and fixing it was hardwired into Govin as a doctor: “In medicine you’re always encouraged to do audits, and to look into how to improve things”. For him it was intuitive to be proactive and figure out how to fix the problem of consent once he encountered it.
Kate pointed out another similarity between public servants and startup founders: both have a level of audacity in their unyielding commitment to their ideas and projects. This commitment is necessary to enable them to push these ideas forward relentlessly despite obstacles and pushback. Both Govin and Kate articulated a shared resilience and perseverance between public servants and startup founders.

Nothing Prepares You to Start a Startup Like Starting a Startup

And yet, in spite of overlaps with the public sector, building a startup is categorically different.

“Startups have a lot of volatility—things are always changing. You’re continuously improving the direction that the company is travelling in because it’s so small and agile.” — Ben Maruthappu

Imagine combining the speed at which startups change and develop with the necessity to build every aspect of a business from scratch and you might get a sense of the unique challenge of founding a startup.
“None of my previous jobs prepared me for 90% of the work involved in building a startup”, Kate explained.
Each of the founders mentioned the extensive list of activities you have to be involved in as a founder—from office location and operations, to recruitment, marketing, fundraising, partnerships, and technology.
But rather than dwelling on the obstacles, mishaps and setbacks—and I’m sure they encountered a few—they framed their experiences in terms of progress and development.

As Govin noted, “it’s been one of the greatest learning experiences for me. I’ve picked up skills that I never had as a doctor or dentist.”

In the public sector, the majority of civil servants work within a variety of predetermined parameters, with structures to support and guide them. In startups, however “parameters are far more variable or even unknown which makes it far more difficult to deliver—and far more exciting” (Ben).

A Risk Worth Taking

When I asked them whether they’d encourage other public sector workers to make the leap, they were emphatic in their response:
“Do it. You’ll never know if it’s right for you unless you give it a shot. There’s no recipe for making a successful business except for doing it.” (Govin)
“Definitely do it. Going into a startup can be perceived as risky, but it’s a risk worth taking.” (Ben)
“Sometimes the key to achieving social impact comes in unexpected places. Be led by the passion not the method and you’ll always find it rewarding.” (Kate)
The consensus was clear: If you’re passionate about improving public services and have an idea of how to tackle a public sector challenge, it’s worth pursuing your idea and trying to meeting the challenge head on.
A parting word from Govin: “The revolution in public services is going to be through these people”. That means you.
Applications for GovStart are open – click here to find out more and to apply.

Future of GovTech / Intelligence /
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The Birth of GovStart: Come Write the Next Chapter

Daniel Korski, PUBLIC’s CEO and co-founder, tells the story of PUBLIC, and of its growth programme GovStart’s conception.

One moment I was walking through the famous black door at No. 10 Downing Street, one of the Prime Minister’s close advisers; the next I was being expedited out through the backdoor, having watched David Cameron’s resignation speech, and then followed him into the ignominy of unemployment.

I walked down Whitehall, wondering what to do next? Should I continue in politics, for example offering my services to one of the campaigns for the next Tory leadership? Or should I throw myself into the post-referendum debates that would help determine what the vote – and Brexit – actually meant? There were, thankfully, plenty of commercial offers. My phone had been filling up with text messages from people I had worked with in the City, offering lunches, coffee and jobs.

Daniel’s article in Politico: Why we lost the Brexit vote

As I reached Trafalgar Square, I had resolved to do two things.
First, I had to write a searingly honest account of why we lost the EU referendum. I felt I owed my perspective to future generations who would ask what had happened. And I knew that I would inevitably forget details and probably embellish events if I tried to write anything in the future. I also needed it to achieve catharsis; to move on. The article, which was one of the first accounts of the run-up to and details of the referendum, is still one of the most downloaded on the Politico website.

The second thing I decided was to devote the next couple of years to ensure the extraordinary technology-enabled transformation I had seen in sectors like financial services, retail and consumer goods, would also benefit the public sector.
I have been passionate about public service all my life. While I have enjoyed stints in the private sector, I always yearned to return to public service, to solve problems for the many. Through work in London, Brussels, Washington, but also Kabul, Sarajevo and Basra, I have sought to deliver better public services, working on issues as broad-ranging as sanitation, energy, trade, and sanctions, as well as military and intelligence reform.

In my time in No. 10, and through conversations with the likes of Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Sheryl Sandberg, I had come to understand how the collapsing price of technology and the dissemination of know-how could help solve the most difficult problems.

In Government, we had set up the Government Digital Service, created Innovate UK, built the Open Data Partnership, launched the G Cloud, and supported industries like FinTech, AI, and genomics. Far-sighted predecessors and colleagues like Rohan Silva, Tim Luke, Jonathan Luff and Joanna Shields had backed the British tech industry, from its early beginning around Shoreditch.

But despite this there was still no pipeline of product-led startups that were looking to use their cutting-edge technology to transform public services.

Investors were reluctant to back companies that were focused on the public sector. And Government – ministers as well as officials – were not really grasping the opportunity before them, and were therefore not making it easier for new companies to compete for contracts.

That is what gave birth to PUBLIC and its GovStart accelerator programme. A belief that with a bit of external help – especially the triptych of insight, access and capital – technology startups could help deliver better, smarter and cheaper public services.  

And a conviction that if we got it right we would help the UK and Europe position themselves at the forefront of an important digital trend. Perhaps even, in a small way, help overcome some of the challenges of Brexit.

There were, of course, many steps between then and now.
Backers like Robin and Saul Klein, Brent Hoberman, Jon and Spencer Moulton, Stefan Glaenzer, Jonathan Marland, and Ned Cranborne, and many others, were key to getting the project off the ground. So were early collaborators like Eileen Burbidge, and supporters like Emma Jones.

Alexander de Carvalho joined as my co-founder and added commercial rigour and digital know-how to PUBLIC’s operation. Mark Lazar designed the GovStart programme from scratch, even though he had sworn, following a few years at Techstars, that he would never run another accelerator programme. Caroline Makepeace built the wiring of the organization and Edward Elliot made us known far and wide. Our PwC secondee Bhavin Kotecha brought much-needed financial modelling to our business.

PUBLIC’s latest report: The Rise of UrbanTech

Mentors like Bill Crothers, Theo Blackwell, Matthew Trimming, Ruth O’Neale, James Stewart, James Steventon, and Stephen Heidukewitsch, provided expert advice. We have since been joined by my former colleague from No. 10, Max Chambers, and Andy Richardson, the former VP of Technology at Thomson Reuters, who is our CTO.

As we looked to set up PUBLIC I traveled to the US and across Europe to look at different models and see how best to build the premier GovTech ecosystem. I was particularly impressed by Civic Hall and BetaWorks in New York, Brent Hoberman’s Founders Factory, The Family in Paris and Matt Truman’s TrueStart. I took the best from these and sought to adapt their advice to the particularities of the public sector. Corporate partners like AWS, Mishcon de Reya, and PwC helped further.
Perhaps most importantly, was the response from the public sector. From No. 10 and HMT, Secretaries of State and junior ministers, from the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, and Civil Service CEO John Manzoni, to GDS chief Kevin Cunnington, as well as PermSecs in many departments, there was nothing but support for what we wanted to do and achieve.

Today, as we open the door again for applications to the GovStart programme, we believe we can say that we have built the most intensive and effective accelerator programme globally for startups that want to transform public services.

Besides the triptych of insight, access and capital, we now support companies with product development and fundraising, as well as PR and marketing. We also invest in companies, either because we want to follow-on companies from GovStart that go on to raise, or because we see a great startup outside the cohort that we want to back.

The West Midlands’ and PUBLIC’s open competition for tech startups

We have worked with many departments and mayors, like the West Midlands’ Andy Street, to open the public market for new solutions. And we’ve learnt a lot along the way – not least which departments are genuinely open to change, which frameworks and bids matter, and which digital programmes will actually deliver results.

The last GovStart cohort won contracts worth millions of pounds, received help to build or refine their products, support to ensure compliance with GDPR and cyber requirements, met ministers and officials, and learnt how to sell into the public sector – both when the public sector knows what it wants and when you have to persuade decision-makers and buyers that the best option is one they didn’t even know existed. We have – with the help of Microsoft – published research reports, which have sought to demystify the nature of public procurement.

In the process, we believe that we have, in a very tangible way, helped improve public services.

And that last point is what PUBLIC and GovStart is all about.

Alexander and I are clear: PUBLIC is a mission-driven business. Profit is our discipline, but not our purpose. We are primarily motivated by the promise of transforming public services through the magic that innovative technology companies bring.  And so we cannot wait, as we open the applications to GovStart, to see the many ways that a new cohort of companies will seek to transform public services.

We have written the first chapter of GovStart, along with companies like Adzuna, Pockit, Eyn, Cera, RedSift, Flynotes, AsktheMidwife, Novoville and Calipsa. Come write the next chapter.

Applications for GovStart are open – click here to find out more and to apply.

Join us at The GovTechSummit in Paris on 12 November 2018 to bring entrepreneurs to the public sector!