Technical / CFO role for Howard at 'world-class' UHS

30 May 2022 Seamus Ward

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people_Ian Howard_portrait‘I have a strong emotional connection to the trust and very much feel part of the UHS family,’ he says. ‘I have immense pride in the improvements we have made in recent years, the developments we have created and the culture we have facilitated and grown.
‘This has been demonstrated by the innovative, forward-thinking but, most importantly, caring response to the pandemic – putting care of our staff and care of patients at
the forefront of everything we do.’
Despite recent challenges, the results from the trust, reduced infections and lives saved,
have highlighted everything that is special about working for UHS.
‘The compelling attraction to working for UHS is supporting a world-class organisation
that feels like a family that is all pulling together in the same direction,’ he adds.
‘The role of CFO gives me the opportunity to provide the financial leadership and
infrastructure within UHS and the wider health system to really make a difference to staff and patients, and to achieve the trust’s vision of “World class people, delivering world class care”.
UHS is developing a finance strategy to describe how the vision is supported, building
on a strong track record of financial performance to maintain financial sustainability and invest in the trust’s underlying infrastructure. This includes improvements to capacity and estate and investing in digital.
‘We are also supporting system developments, including how we collaborate via clinical
networks. To achieve this strategy, we will need to innovate, identify new funding sources, and create commercial agreements, as well as utilise our assets effectively,’ Mr Howard adds.
The NHS has faced the most challenging period in its history and must now address the
equally daunting task of recovery.
‘We know patients are waiting too long for care, and that leads to poor experiences for
patients, their families and staff. We also know staff have faced unprecedented pressure during Covid and need us to be compassionate and caring in supporting their recovery.’
At the same time, the finances of the NHS have tightened, with funding increases during
Covid not being sustained. 
‘Our challenge is therefore to keep our responses to these pressures aligned and in
balance. Within finance, our priority is to develop the financial architecture to support the
additional activity while maintaining financial sustainability,’ he adds.
Despite ongoing pressures, the NHS must not lose sight of the longer term, he says. ‘In these challenging times, it is so easy to fall into the trap of only thinking of the here and now; how do the next few months look?
‘However, the task facing the NHS is not a short-term one. If we are to reduce waiting lists by delivering 130% of pre-Covid elective activity in future years, we have to act now to ensure we have the capacity and workforce in place. Continuing to develop our future workforce – including finance professionals – is key to responding to these challenges in the future.’
Mr Howard joined the NHS in 2007 on the national graduate training scheme, then held
various finance roles with commissioners. In 2013 he moved to NHS England during its
formation, giving him a wider understanding of the NHS at different levels.
At that point in his career, he wanted to be closer to patients and frontline staff, and to feel he could make a difference. In 2017, he joined UHS as assistant director of finance, before being promoted to deputy director of finance in 2018. And, after 14 months as interim CFO, he was appointed permanent CFO in March.
‘After the previous CFO was promoted to chief executive, I was asked to step into the interim CFO position. This came early for me, but the opportunity to gain experience of operating at that level, with fantastic support from the CEO and wider executive team, was one I couldn’t turn down.’
Mr Howard adds: ‘Being honest, the first few months were daunting. However, the support I have received during the sharp learning curve has been fantastic. This has enabled me to grow into the role and be appointed to the permanent CFO position.’
The NHS graduate management training programme played a big role in his career. ‘It
launched my career in the NHS and my passion for making a difference in healthcare. I was lucky enough to have the support of programme and placement managers who are passionate about growing the future NHS finance leaders and helped my development, giving me a broad range of experience I look back on to this day.
‘The scheme kick-started my career with direction and purpose, and I am truly grateful
for the experiences it gave me.’ 
He strongly believes in finance staff development, and has made it one of his priorities.
‘In UHS, we have a concept of finance staff leaving footprints throughout the organisation, where we encourage change and innovation, and support teams to make a difference. For that to be a reality, we must develop and empower our staff at all levels throughout the finance function. 
‘We hope that the finance staff we are developing will be our future finance teams and finance leaders. My journey is a testament to that model, and I hope I can give back by
supporting the development journey of budding finance professionals within UHS and the local healthcare system.'