Future-Focused Finance; an NHS initiative to make people count

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David Ellcock is Head of Professional & Technical Development at Future-Focused Finance. Prior to being seconded into his current role, David worked as the Skills Development Network Manager for the NHS in the North West for seven years. David is a CIPFA qualified accountant and was a Finance Director for several NHS organisations before moving into skills development. David talks through Future-Focused Finance ‘making people count’ – an initiative to create a united vision for finance divisions across the NHS. 

Future-Focused Finance was set up earlier this year, in February 2014. The initiative came to fruition following several meetings with the six heads of the finance profession in the NHS. The aim was to come together and to create a united vision for NHS finance teams to aspire to over a five year period.

Future-Focused Finance is about ‘making people count’, and that includes everyone who works in finance in every role at every level. It also includes those we work with to deliver services, and the patients and communities who use them.

The NHS needs and requires different levels of experience across finance teams, so it’s important that we have the right foundations for sustained improvement and we continually look to improve systems and processes to be as effective as possible.

NHS finance teams support our hospitals, our ambulance service trusts, our mental health trusts and our clinical commissioning groups. Without strong financial management, the NHS wouldn’t be able to provide the medical treatment and clinical care that it currently does.  It’s important that we continue to deliver good value now and in the future.

We encourage training and development for all finance staff and want everyone within NHS finance departments to reach their true potential. Training needs naturally differ from organisation to organisation but we’ve always have a healthy number of people studying at any one time. According to our latest data figures, we have approximately 590 students studying finance qualifications, mostly with AAT, CIMA, ACCA or CIPFA.

Finance training is usually funded via an organisation’s budget, however, there are occasional schemes that are set up by Health Education England for specific training schemes e.g. apprenticeship and cadet schemes. Most of our apprentices begin their journey with the AAT core accounting qualification and we do see a number of employees also benefit from AAT Access.

To deliver the transformation required to bring about the vision of Future-Focused Finance over the next five years, we have organised our thinking around three strategic themes, each of which comprises two action areas. The themes will help us in our aspiration to secure excellence in financial services, ensure close partnering with our colleagues and fulfil the potential of everyone working in NHS finance.

We will measure the effectiveness of the initiative by firstly working with customers (internally and externally) so they can fully understand the role of the financial function to the NHS and we will have new performance measures to help benchmark our activities.

We have already developed a website which gives us a platform to keep employees informed with the latest updates and news as well as providing an open forum for blogging activity from others around the organisation. This has already proved a great way for different organisations to keep in touch and share ideas and is a growing community.

As well as the website, which is designed to encourage social media style interactivity, we also have embraced Twitter (@nhsFFF) using the hashtag #futurefocusedfinance to allow people to talk and interact with us. We also have Value Markers (Ambassadors for Future-Focused Finance) that tweet regularly, spreading the word and engaging with employees in finance teams but also other colleagues across the NHS. The role of social media is important as our finance teams are spread all over the UK so the website and Twitter activity allows us to share the same unified goals regardless of our locations.

If you work in a finance team within the NHS then please do get involved with Future-Focused Finance to keep up to date on the latest info. Think you may like to work within the NHS? Read about their cadet schemes. 

If you’re an employer and are looking to upskill your finance team, please do visit the employer page for further details on the suite of AAT qualifications. 

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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