The Christie Hospital in Manchester is piloting a system for booking locum doctors that may do for agency work what Tinder has done for internet dating and Uber has done for mini cabbing.
If successful, it could be rolled out across Greater Manchester.
Circular Wave, founded by trainee anaesthetist and former locum doctor James Foxlee, provides a real time platform for NHS organisations to request shifts from locum doctors and for locum doctors to record their availability and accept or reject shifts offered.
Dr Foxleee said he aims to “disrupt” the agency market and deliver substantial savings by cutting out the middleman – the fee-charging agency.
The app is being trialled at a time of mounting concern about rising agency fees. NHS chief executive Simon Stevens last week warned the Public Accounts Committee that NHS agency spend is set to hit £4bn this year.
He told the committee the increase in “rip off” agency spending was responsible for “most if not all” of the spiralling deficits faced by the acute sector.
Dr Foxlee said his app, jointly developed with software engineer Ashley Rudland, aims to end this rip off. It is aimed initially at doctors, but could be used for any healthcare worker.
He said: “A doctor using Circular Wave receives a notification about a job and can say yes or no. It is very streamlined – like Tinder they can swipe to accept or reject the job. The hospital can then book them.”
The app potentially allows trusts to pool their temporary staffing banks with a digital handshake where two organisations accept each other’s compliance arrangements for checking mandatory training and other requirements. This could deliver substantial savings and reduce dependency on high cost agencies.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has been trialling the application since October 2015 for junior doctors on its internal bank and is already talking with other trusts in Greater Manchester about how they might use it and whether it could be rolled out across Greater Manchester.
A spokesperson said: “The system is intuitive to use. We have been working with Circular Wave under a partnership arrangement and have been through a number of versions of the app to reach a platform where junior doctors are responding to potential shifts in a much more timely manner. The initial feedback from the doctors is that they find this method of communicating much easier.”
The Christie says it now fill shifts more quickly, but has yet to show any financial saving. The spokesperson added: “However this technology may help some larger trusts with higher levels of dependency on agency staff to reduce their costs.”
Circular Wave plans to charge NHS organisations a monthly fee based on their workforce size and believes that this model has the potential for generating significant savings.
Dr Foxlee said: “We are looking to disrupt the marketplace by not charging a commission.”
The co-founders also plan to build a payment platform that would enable trusts and shift workers to manage invoicing and payment more efficiently.