How do we keep free so NHS staff can learn from each other?

Sunday, April 12, 2020 | is a free-to-NHS online supportive tool that helps NHS staff create, learn from, and share their experience of improving services at the local level. At its heart, BOB is a bit of tech that enables NHS staff to tell stories that help each other.

This tool will always be free to NHS staff, so how do you make a business work keeping this promise? Read on...

Early on, when we were working out how to make BOB into a business, we knew that we couldn’t charge NHS staff to share their experience and practice. Shared learning in the NHS is challenging enough, add a paywall and game over for spreading and scaling great ideas.

In addition, is an advert-free zone, and we do not promote to, or target paid-for stories at, our story creators and readers using the tool. This approach makes us different from most other channels for healthcare professionals. There are no flashing banners, or daily or monthly emails containing paid-for requests to encourage you to view. These approaches have their place elsewhere, just not on

So where did the money come from to create, and how will you keep it free forever?

Up until launch, has been self-funded by co-founders Neil Crump and Marc Southern, followed by finding some great investors who believed in the concept of BOB, when it was some mocked-up designs in a PowerPoint presentation.

As our refocused COVID-19 supportive tool has no revenue-generating element, we put out a call to NHS suppliers to help. One stepped forward immediately with the offer of a no-strings-attached grant (known as unrestricted grants). As I type on (11 April) a handful of other companies are considering supporting BOB's COVID-19 module delivery. We are so appreciative of this help.

In the future, we’ll bring NHS staff another free module to help tell stories of how to improve services and make other changes, as well as sponsored stories of NHS staff introducing innovation and working collaboratively with NHS suppliers.

We generate revenue from stories about innovation introduction and good use at the local level that brings maximum benefit to patients and value to the NHS. Our typical paying customer will be a pharmaceutical company seeking to demonstrate the optimal use of a medicine, that brings maximum benefit to patients and value to the NHS, or profile their collaborative contribution to optimising local service provision. All stories, free-of-charge or sponsored, are authored by NHS staff who drove the change.

How will I know I am reading a sponsored story?

Sponsored impact stories will be marked, and as with all stories, the declarations of interest will be crystal clear for you to read. Remember that only sponsored stories of decent innovation and collaborative initiatives appear on BOB. The innovation has to demonstrate benefit to patients and value to the NHS.

The story reveals how innovation, in practical terms, got to be used optimally. An impact story on innovation adoption isn’t a sales pitch; that’s someone else’s job. BOB helps an NHS staff member explain how they went about introducing an innovation, which is often a complicated and time-consuming task, and which is why sharing this knowledge about it is so important. Others can learn from this and be more efficient in their use or introduction.

As valuable content, sponsored impact stories come up in relevant search results on the site. As with the free-of-charge generated impact stories, BOB encourages you to share sponsored stories. If you have found the insight useful, there is a good chance that a colleague, or someone else in the UK within your professional networks, might also gain the same benefit as you from reading about it.

Will you tell me about new sponsored impact stories relevant to my practice? will invite registered users to express their preferences for new content in specific areas, across both free and sponsored impact stories. Understanding our users in this way will ensure that the people who form the community know about relevant impact stories that align with their interests and will be helpful in their day-to-day work.

Speak to the co-founders

Co-founders, Marc Southern and Neil Crump are pleased to talk to you about the business model and how we keep this storytelling service free for NHS staff, to help each other learn. Just email or get in touch with them on 07738 206 153.

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