The NHS will struggle until all staff understand finance

17 Jan 17

To stop healthcare from deteriorating, the entire NHS workforce needs to learn about how its finances work

The NHS’s financial situation continues to raise concerns and, in the middle of a difficult winter for the service, it faces severe pressures. Finance directors have been warning for some time about the effect of its financial situation on the quality of services – it’s no longer just a financial problem but a sector-wide one. Waiting times and missed targets show that quality is declining for patients across the UK.

To get a grip on and ultimately fix this, making sure the whole NHS healthcare workforce has an understanding of the service’s financial background will be key.

Given the scale of problem, it’s essential the NHS educates every member of staff so they appreciate the consequences of the financial challenges ahead. While finance staff at all levels should be well equipped, general management, clinicians, nurses, GPs, practice managers, other healthcare professionals and non-executive directors should all be well informed in particular. Making efficiencies must not be consigned to finance teams alone – it needs to be across the service and achieved by all healthcare professionals too.

Training staff in the basics of NHS finance, the current picture and the job in hand will help contribute to their understanding of how it affects their daily roles and patient care. In addition, it will ensure that clinicians have the background and skills to implement their part of the plans relating to sustainability and transformation at ground level.

Developing a better understanding will, in turn, improve the relationship between clinical and non-clinical staff. Finance professionals face a difficult task and it’s important the NHS recognises the enormous job they have in considering the financial implications of every single clinical decision that is made. Non-clinical staff may not directly save lives, but the clinicians who do require their expertise and seamless support. For finance teams, it is about developing their training so it is tailored and bespoke to today’s NHS. This is in addition to broader, more industry-based accountancy and finance training.

The NHS is known for its dedication to CPD. Training and qualifications improve career prospects as well as performance. Offering opportunities to learn is important to help get the best out of people. It helps them to feel valued, invested in and confident about doing their job.

Ultimately, NHS finance teams have a huge task ahead and only by creating a united workforce will this be achieved. If health professionals at ground level are to implement the plans put in place to provide savings, they need to be given the knowledge to understand the problematic financial climate and how the position can be reversed. Only by continuing to invest in the NHS workforce will it be possible to tackle the difficult challenges in the year ahead, and ensure the long-term stability of the health service.

For more information on the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s commitment to developing healthcare business and finance skills visit

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