June 1, 2022

Change-maker Series – enferm, the HealthTech startup changing temporary staffing for good

enferm is a social-first, 360 healthcare workforce solution looking to change the perception of temporary staffing across the UK

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Change-maker Series – enferm, the HealthTech startup changing temporary staffing for good

enferm recently opened its London office at Techspace Shoreditch, where our Marketing Team sat down with Josh, the vision-driven founder and CEO for an inspiring and captivating conversation about his business. 

From the beginnings of enferm, the challenges brought by scaling, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, read on to witness the incredible rise of enferm! 

Enjoy 👇🏼

Companies are built in the image of their founders and enferm is no exception. The vision behind enferm and Josh’s personal story are interconnected.

Josh grew up in Spain and arrived in London in 2009 with an “unrivalled desire to achieve something”. 

After working in the underground for TFL, Josh moved onto an apprenticeship in Mechanical Engineering before moving onto Healthcare, working in healthcare recruitment for 18 months. 

At the same time (on top of his full-time job), Josh also volunteered to work at Milton Keynes hospital where he developed meaningful relationships with staff and became passionate about supporting the industry. 

The story behind enferm

Josh’s life, mindset and outlook on the world shifted drastically when he almost lost his three-year-old son. 

After spending weeks at the hospital, it was here Josh witnessed, first-hand, the incredible triumphs that were made possible by nurses, and temporary staff alike (and the direct impact he could make via his recruitment company).

In his own words, he describes this as an ‘unforgettable moment of fate’… a nuclear moment in time that invigorated a man to make his life’s work a pursuit that ensures everyone receives the same level of care that he was so fortunate to experience. A moment that, unbeknown to him at the time, would pave the way for the company we know today as enferm.

“It was at that moment I had complete clarity on my life’s purpose”. 

From despair to clarity. 

Josh is certain his Son was saved by the dedication and skill of the nurses that day. An emotional triumph in defiance of an acute shortage of doctors and staff at the time. 

The result for Josh was a powerful recognition that his job could impact life and death. If he could help solve some of the issues around staffing shortages, he could positively impact the lives of family, friends and communities around him.

Waking the giant

As Josh began building his own company, he quickly understood that making an impact would be reliant on working with the NHS. And in such a closed and regulated industry progress was extremely slow in the early days.

“To make a difference we needed to work with the National Healthcare System (NHS), not against it.” 

As you might expect, the primary goal of the NHS is to ensure the quality of care and safety of patients. A goal that relies heavily on consistent and adequate numbers of skilled healthcare professionals being available. 

Yet, growing shortages of full-time nurses and other healthcare professionals led to the NHS’s increasing reliance on agency staff (as well as reliance on foreign workforce to resolve staffing shortfalls), which handed the power to staffing agencies that were lucky enough to be on the NHS approved suppliers list. And in turn, could happily dictate staffing rates.

So in 2016, to regain a bit of control, the NHS introduced a cap on the hourly rates paid to agencies. The main objective of the policy was to bring payments made to the agency staff closer to the salaries of NHS payroll staff. As part of this reform, the NHS also relaxed the strict criteria for new agencies applying for NHS contracts.

This was Josh’s big break. 

As most entrepreneurial minds do, Josh leapt at the opportunity, taking advantage of the new healthcare reform and securing his first NHS contract.

enferm, a marketplace for shift work 

enferm was born. 

Josh had his agency, and secured his first contract. But unlike the incumbent agencies already in the space, enferm stood for something different. Rather than taking advantage of the system, enferm was born out of Josh’s need to make an impact. Which meant enferm was hellbent on staying social-first, helping the NHS by fixing rates at a fair level and ‘paying forward’ the benefits to the nurses and the public funded system. 

Moreover, because enferm was conceived to influence significant change, the company was customer-centric and therefore product-orientated. 

It had to work, and it had to work at scale.

Josh built the enferm app across three categories:

  • A shift marketplace for nurses with a compliance wallet, that allows nurses to pick shifts
  • A client pillar, that enables hospitals and trusts to list shifts
  • An internal CRM, that enables hospitals and trusts to match availability and demand

And with this platform approach to connect nurses to hospitals and trusts through the platform, his vision to change a prehistoric industry was starting to become a reality.

Battling through the pandemic 

The pandemic has no doubt been a huge strain on businesses across the globe. And by Josh’s recollection this was an incredibly stressful time for enferm. With so much uncertainty from hospitals and from staff, Josh and his team found themselves right in the eye of the storm. 

But within any crisis comes opportunity, and luckily for enferm, this was a global crisis which their business could directly support!

With demand through the roof, the pandemic posed a new challenge for Josh; ‘how can we service all of our customers, without letting anyone down?’

With a small team and little to no credibility Josh knew that he needed to invest in technology to solve the problem. 

In February 2021 Josh met with Georg Schmertzing and Friedrich Furstenberg of Real Day, a Swiss tech company. And despite not having the capital to acquire the business, Josh offered equity in exchange for the tech. A deal that commendably came to fruition, and enferm had their tech stack.

Friedrich, Joshua and Georg

With new foundations for ramping growth, enferm had acquired a solid staffing engine, and with it they gained the trust of the NHSI (NHS Improvement), which led them to close contracts for Health Trust Europe, All Wales and the Priory National Framework.

In quick succession enferm were awarded multiple “National Clinical Frameworks”, and scaled quickly from a team of 6 in 2020 to a team of 72 in 2022. Hiring staff in 8 countries, and opening offices in London, Milton Keynes, Serbia and India. 

The ambiguity of growth

Of course, with hyper-growth and newfound success new challenges emerge. For Josh, much of this was centred around how he could scale at the pace of the company’s needs, whilst making sure the culture stayed aligned with the company values. 

“Especially with the addition of hybrid working, to maintain culture we needed to somehow keep the same energy and cohesiveness.”

Many businesses have tackled this in different ways, but for enferm, the team is required to work from the office at least 2 days per week. 

“Working remotely definitely changed the culture, but not in a negative way.  Some departments have become more efficient, others have not.”

Of course, for Josh, his own journey from embryonic idea to scaleup CEO/Founder has also been challenging. And he credits hiring his Sisters and his Dad, alongside his Operational Lead  as ‘one of the best moves he could have made’. Giving him time to oversee and push the business forward, while in the knowledge that his team have a number of cultural ambassadors they can engage with day to day. 

The move to hybrid working also provoked Josh to begin collecting happiness ratings from the team week to week, checking in on anyone who might be feeling isolated, or just having a difficult week. Josh also still maintains an open-door policy across the business. 

“It’s really important to me that we continue to operate transparently, and welcome questions at any time”

Today, Josh continues to navigate the challenges of growing demand, a growing team, whilst managing stakeholders used to slow-moving public policy. And we wish him luck on the next phase of his journey! It’s a truly inspiring story (so far), and we’re honoured to open the Change-maker Series with Josh’s story of enferm… 

Thanks Josh! 

enferm now has 1200 nurses registered on the app, works with more than 130 hospitals and plans to support medical students by financing their studies in exchange for their engagement to work with them in the future.

To find out more about Josh and the team, check out: https://www.enferm.io/

Follow them on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/enferm-medical-ltd/ 

Or reach out to Josh! https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshua-sprigg/

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