While unemployment is falling in Scotland this relative newcomer to the ranks of the country’s entrepreneurs reckons governments still need to make it easier for small firms to take on staff.

Name: Dr Sheila O'Neill.


What is your business called?

Glasgow Medical Rooms.

Where is it based?

In Glasgow's city centre business district on St Vincent Street.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

Glasgow Medical Rooms is a private, independently-owned GP service, one of only a handful in Greater Glasgow. It offers a holistic approach to health care, aimed primarily at the business community and key individuals within companies and corporations.

We have identified the needs of people who are dissatisfied by what the NHS has to offer and aim to fill that gap by providing for them. Glasgow Medical Rooms offers a rapid, often same-day, appointment service to fit in with busy life and work commitments. It also organises delivery of prescriptions to workplaces to reduce downtime and arranges a full hospital referral service, including acute services such as A&E.

The limited 10-minute appointment cycle in the NHS is one of the biggest constraints on comprehensive care, and one of the major causes of stress among GPs. Glasgow Medical Rooms offers 15 min, 30 min and even one-hour appointment slots so that issues can be fully discussed in an inclusive environment and so that time is available for any necessary testing procedures. It also offers electrocardiograms, lung function and hearing tests.

In house facilities include the services of two physiotherapists, a counsellor, a psychologist and a GP-hypnotherapist. In the next few months we will be running a specialist sports injury clinic in conjunction with an orthopaedic surgeon and in May this year we will be launching a new health and wellness service in collaboration with another specialist health company.

To whom does it sell?

Individuals and companies looking for bespoke medical care at times that suit them, both company owners and their key employees. It is aimed at people at the higher end of the market, for whom time is an essential consideration.

I think it also presents a money-saving opportunity for companies and organisations within a wide radius of the city centre. Glasgow Medical Rooms provides full care for employees, creating a significant time-saving. Unwell employees no longer need to take time off to travel to the suburbs or further to see their own GPs, and prescriptions can be arranged and delivered to their offices.

What is its turnover?

I am projecting £150,000 for year one, and expect this to rise to £350,000 by year two to three.

How many employees?

Two at the moment, my invaluable practice manager Deborah Creedy who keeps the surgery running like clockwork, and Ray Hughes our Business Manager who guides me through the day to day business decisions. We also have a range of medical specialists who are on call 24 hours a day.

When was it formed?

July 2016.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Immediately after medical school, I worked as a locum for around six months before being offered a partnership at the Govanhill Health Centre, a busy inner city practice on the South Side of Glasgow. I was a full-time GP in the Centre for 20 years. The practice work was fulfilling, but also stressful. It was an intense experience, and I had to be very time efficient. There was the whole range of very complex inner city problems, ranging from overcrowding and deprivation to drug and alcohol problems. It gave me a really broad experience.

Why did you take the plunge?

I saw that there was a way that I could do things better, if I took a fresh look at the model. I still get an immense satisfaction from helping people. If someone in need appears at my surgery door with immediate medical problems, I will never turn them away simply because we are a private enterprise. I realised also that, at my age, it was now or never. I didn’t want to be too old to do it, and then regret never having tried.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

A combination of sources - savings and bank assistance. I have invested some £50,000 in the new premises.

What was your biggest break?

I can’t say that there has been a “big break” so far but I’m always hopeful that one will come my way. To me, my biggest break is having a very supportive family and work colleagues.

What was your worst moment?

I had a very good career in Govanhill and I had developed it into a training practice. I was the lead trainer and involved in the academic side, helping medical students to become the next generation of dedicated doctors. I was also in line to become senior partner. It was hard to walk away from all of that, and all the work I had put into it, but the time was right for a variety of reasons.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I have total autonomy and the time to spend with patients without clockwatching for who's coming in next. That is just not possible in the NHS.

What are your ambitions for the business?

To become the go-to medical practice for members of the Glasgow business community.

What are your top priorities?

My top priority is to expand the range of services that we offer to patients so that we can cater for most medical needs. Aside from that immediate business priority, and providing patients with the best service I can, it’s important for me also to balance home and work life.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Both governments should provide more incentives to encourage the employment of new staff. I support the principle of providing pensions for worker and encouraging them to save, but the bureaucracy involved in auto-enrolment, for example, is a time consuming and a costly burden on small businesses, especially start-ups.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

If something isn’t right in your business life, act to change it. A few of the people who helped me take action were Robert Jenkins, Tom Nolan and Mike Smith, all very successful businessmen and Denis Mone of Scottish Enterprise. They gave me total encouragement and reinforced my self-belief and confidence to make the leap of faith and grab the opportunity.

How do you relax?

I keep fit by attending an early morning circuit class three times weekly. I spend time at home with my husband and four sons and I also like to socialise with friends. The odd bit of retail therapy doesn't go amiss either.