Intended for healthcare professionals


How doctors with entrepreneurial skills will receive NHS help

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 18 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:cf_young
  1. Tony Young, national clinical director for innovation
  1. NHS England
  1. tony.young{at}


NHS England has launched a training scheme for doctors who want to turn a clinical business idea into reality, says Tony Young

As doctors begin another round of specialty training applications, it is sobering to reflect that almost half of foundation year 2 doctors do not immediately take up their specialist training posts, and each year around 5% of trainees leave to pursue other opportunities.12 One of the reasons for leaving the NHS is to become involved in clinical innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s an issue all over the world: in the US in 2014 35% of Stanford and 21% of University of California Los Angeles medical graduates did not go on to residency training, with many of them going straight to industry instead.

To help trainees develop their business skills, NHS England and Health Education England have launched the UK’s first national clinical entrepreneur training programme. The programme offers fellowships to junior doctors to help them develop their ideas and take them to market, under the mentorship of international entrepreneurs and health innovators.

Applications have recently closed for places in the first intake, and the programme will start in autumn 2016. These pioneer fellows will play a key part in the development of a new, supportive culture and a drive for clinical innovation throughout the NHS. Those who don’t fit the criteria, or who miss out on a place after interviews, will be able to join the core stream and choose from a flexible range of curriculum options.

Fellowship stream

The fellowship stream is available to those successful applicants who have already developed an idea to the point where it can receive pre-commercial support from prospective customers. NHS England will provide a customer matching service—making the most of its national and international networks—to further develop the strongest ideas in preparation for the start of the fellowship programme.

Fellows will be able to access tailored, co-designed packages such as “less than full time” training, annualised job planning, and options for up to 12 months’ time out from clinical duties to pursue clinical entrepreneurship during their training programme. Packages will include placements and internships with industry, both partner funded and self funded.

Clinical entrepreneur training packages will set fellows on the path to becoming national and international leaders of the future, as the UK cements its place at the leading edge of global healthcare entrepreneurship and ensures a future “brain gain.”

Fellows will then have the chance to shape entrepreneurship right across the NHS, as these training opportunities will become available to nurses, dentists, midwives, pharmacists, clinical scientists, and allied health professionals over the coming years.

Core stream

Trainees in the core stream will develop their skills with the help of webinars, videos, and e-learning opportunities. They will study recognised, accredited modules that can be used towards postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma, masters, or undergraduate/intercollated qualifications.

The curriculum will cover all aspects of running a small business, including attracting investors, applying for funding, and a crash course in how to build a start-up. A “boot camp” scheme will provide more training opportunities. A new online resource will signpost information and advice, links to partners and networks, guidance, and details of internal and external events.

These programmes have been developed to enable a new era of democratised, personalised healthcare that improves quality, patient experience, outcomes, and efficiency. The tailored packages will give clinicians the skills, knowledge, experience, and leadership capability needed to bring the best ideas to market and to mass uptake. It will create a core of clinical leaders who are able to deliver health improvements through digital health, genomics, data analytics, advanced technology, and social networks—as set out by NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, in the Five Year Forward View.3

We don’t want to limit entrepreneurs—and their ideas may be about a product, a process, or a pathway. This programme takes the most valuable asset of the NHS—its staff—and gives them the skills to help transform healthcare.

Next steps

Interviews for the first intake are currently being held and are due to finish in March. The programme will start in autumn 2016, after intensive work to tailor individualised programmes to each fellow.

The clinical entrepreneur programme is an exciting landmark for the NHS and will give our staff the entrepreneurial skills, knowledge, and experience to help deliver on the promise of the Five Year Forward View and the personalised, democratised healthcare revolution that is upon us.


  • Competing interests: I have read and understood BMJ’s policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have no competing interests.

  • • For more information go to the clinical entrepreneur training website or email


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