Promising results from the FD pledge

25 Jan 16

Many finance chiefs have signed the Finance Director Declaration to show their commitment to NHS Future-Focused Finance. How has it affected their work and teams?

Gaining support from finance directors for the Future-Focused Finance project was an early FFF priority. To get NHS organisations involved, their finance directors had to lead – and signing the Finance Director Declaration showed this.

By last July, 165 of the 500 finance directors and chief finance officers in the NHS had made a declaration. To review the effects of signing, we commissioned a survey of those who ha made the declaration; 92 completed it. The results revealed several successes – as well as areas needing attention.

Enthusiasm for and engagement with FFF varies greatly. Almost all signatories were committed to its aims and principles, and welcomed FFF’s national role in staff development, seeing it as important in driving change across a “fragmented system”.

“The finance team has benefited enormously from the programmes of knowledge and skills made available through the FFF initiative,” says Tony Whitfield, director of finance at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Clare Yarwood, director of finance at Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, observes: “Having a network of people to be able to talk to has enabled individuals to bring back stuff from other organisations and implement it locally.”

Most respondents had carried out the personal commitments in the declaration. However, some questioned the relevance of FFF and there was frustration over a lack of tangible outputs. There were also practical barriers, such as a lack of time.

Ian Crossley, chief finance and contracting officer at Greater Preston, Chorley and South Ribble CCG, says: “Committing time to FFF takes us away from day-to-day activities, but participating improves the skills and experience of the people working on it.”

FFF has a greater effect on finance directors and their teams than on organisations, the public and patients. Directors are critical to successful projects, such as finance educators, who train clinicians in finance. They have also given tips on getting the most out of FFF.

Opinions on the declaration’s value vary widely. FFF could have done some work differently, especially around communication and providing tools; sharing of best practice has been relatively limited.

I’ve led the workstream since June 2015 encouraging people to sign and following up the results. The main areas for action are: communication; FFF website content and usability; sharing best practice; messages about FFF and what it does; and practical tools.

“We’ve listened to finance directors and have developed an action plan that addresses the areas for improvement they highlighted,” says Bob Alexander, chief executive of the Trust Development Authority and a leading member of the FFF’s Finance Leadership Council. “We need finance directors to support FFF, lead their
finance teams and deliver benefits for patients.”

Since July, more finance leaders have signed declarations, bringing the total to 250 by 8 January.

Momentum is building. The declaration is an important step in gaining personal commitments and organisational buy-in. I encourage any NHS finance director to sign – we have a duty to show leadership.

• FFF YouTube video about feedback on the Finance Director Declaration:

This article first appeared in the March edition of Public Finance

  • Patrick McGahon, is director of finance and corporate services at the NHS Business Services Authority
    Patrick McGahon

    Patrick McGahon is director of finance and corporate services at the NHS Business Services Authority

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