The Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust chief financial officer retires at the end of this month, having joined the NHS in 1981. After studying for his degree at Nottingham University, he joined a firm of chartered accountants, but realised it was not for him.
‘Having undertaken my part 1 accountancy studies, I decided I didn’t want to be an auditor,’ he says. ‘I went back into the graduate milk round and secured a place on the NHS graduate general management training scheme. I had only encountered a hospital twice in my 21 years, so I thought it best to get a summer job to see if I liked the environment before I went into the graduate scheme and committed to the NHS.’
Mr Shaw took up a summer post in finance at the Middlesex Hospital in central London and, by the end of the summer, found he had been promoted. At that point, he started supporting a Warwick University PhD student’s research project, which involved building costing and planning models.
He worked in the Middlesex Hospital’s finance team, which merged with University College London Hospitals, gaining his general management training qualifications, until he joined West Lambeth Health Authority in 1983.
He held a variety of posts at St Thomas’ and, having returned to acquiring his professional accounting qualifications, held the post of deputy director of finance until 1993 when Guy’s and St Thomas’ merged.
Mr Shaw has remained at the trust and successor bodies ever since, initially as business and financial planning manager, then strategy director and projects director. He was appointed finance director in 1998 and became chief financial officer in 2017.
‘I’ve done nearly every non-clinical job at the trust – I’ve been director of strategy, IT, estates and HR, as well as being in charge of finance. I’ve been lucky. Other people have had to move around between organisations to progress, but I’ve worked in an organisation that’s always developing, allowing me to move around within the same organisation. I hope I have added value along the way.’
He has served as CFO in the last four years – a more strategic role away from the day-to-day finances. ‘In this role I’ve been coping with the pandemic, as well as successfully merging with the Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Trust, and developing long-range financial planning models, business cases and funding packages to enable the hospital’s longer-term capital developments,’ he says.
Indeed, capital development, including the opening of the trust’s Evelina London Children’s Hospital and the Guy’s Cancer Centre, feature prominently in his career highlights.
Does experience play a key role in completing these projects? ‘Over the past 10 years, we have been able to develop our estate because we have been successful financially. No doubt the more experience you get, you realise a project’s success is based on good relationships.’
Expanding on this theme, Mr Shaw says any development in the NHS must include clinicians as early as possible. ‘The reason we have been as successful as an organisation is the clinical involvement in its operation and management. We have experienced good and bad times financially over the years, but having clinicians involved in taking the decisions has helped, particularly in challenging financial times.
‘Our clinicians treat finances as any other quality standard, as you can guarantee they have ideas to improve things for patients, which also help you achieve value for money.’
Mr Shaw has been a supporter of the HFMA throughout his NHS career, and chaired the association’s Foundation Trust Finance Faculty for eight years. He was made an honorary fellow of the HFMA in 2014 for his contribution to the association’s work.
‘The HFMA has been great over the years, and it has an ability to pull in speakers from finance and from the top of the NHS. It has helped people in their careers as it’s a good way to network, and it gives people a support network when times are tough. It adds real value.’
Looking back, he says it is important to be surrounded by ‘good caring people, to enjoy your job and to have support from your colleagues, family and friends’.
So, what does he plan to do next? ‘I have three children in their 20s, with one getting married in July with the reception at home. I am sure there will be lots to occupy me to get ready for that.’
Guy’s and St Thomas’ is like a family, he continues, and will be difficult to leave completely. ‘I will still be supporting Guy’s and St Thomas’ in the background. I’ve had offers from elsewhere, but at the moment I’m not committing to anything. I want to have a break while I decide and then see what I want to do next.’
Trust chief executive Ian Abbs paid tribute to Mr Shaw ‘for his extraordinary financial leadership over many years’. He adds: ‘This has delivered the financial stability for which the trust is rightly known and has allowed us to pursue key strategic ambitions for the benefit of our patients.’
Mr Shaw will be succeeded by Steven Davies, the trust’s current finance director. Mr Davies has more than 20 years’ NHS experience. Before joining Guy’s and St Thomas’ in 2018, he served as chief financial officer and deputy chief executive at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
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