NHS looks for new finance chief

23 Nov 00
The hunt is on for a new finance director for the National Health Service after it emerged this week that Colin Reeves will leave the post in the New Year.

24 November 2000

Reeves' departure to head up the Accountancy Foundation's Review Board marks the end of nearly seven years as the NHS Executive's director of finance and performance. But coming just weeks after Nigel Crisp took over the chief executive role from Sir Alan Langlands, it leaves the executive again trying to fill an important top management position.

Reeves is widely recognised to have performed well, winning the respect of ministers and NHS finance staff and being made a CBE in 1999. He is understood to have played a major role in securing the substantial increases in health funding in recent years. For the past five years, all health authority and trust accounts have been unqualified, and the service is this year expected to reach financial balance.

Reeves has also taken a leading role in setting up a framework of training and development for finance staff that is the envy of other parts of the service. With the finance profession facing major changes driven by shared services and new technology, another 'top player' will be needed.

But Public Finance sources say there is no natural successor. Some finance directors have expressed concerns that the lack of obvious candidates could lead the Executive to turn to either a career civil servant or the private sector to fill the post.

John Bacon, acting NHS London regional director, may be a candidate. Crisp was his former boss. Richard Douglas, former deputy to Reeves and now finance director of National Savings, is another possibility. Stephen Day, former regional finance director and now director of West Midlands region, could also be tempted. Jim Birrell of Northwest region, who has the highest profile of the current batch of regional finance directors, could also be in the frame.

'Colin's departure will be a great loss to the NHS and particularly the finance function, which he has led with such distinction,' said Barry Elliott, chairman of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. 'He always recognised the pressures that finance directors and their staff worked under and dealt sensitively with the issues.'

The Review Board, which Reeves will head as director alongside chairman Sir John Bourn, will monitor the new independent regulatory system for the accountancy profession.


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