Member to member / Member to member: Robert White

13 July 2023 Robert White

I discovered the HFMA in my first job within the NHS – senior finance manager – when spotting a national conference filled with interesting speakers and learning topics and because of that, I joined.

I could see that the HFMA had the professional development and interests of supporting the NHS finance function at its heart. That and the opportunity to get involved, contribute to committee work, educational material and access training and conferences is what drew me in. It also offered contact with a community of finance professionals outside of the management hierarchy of the NHS. This provided an opportunity to share problems, build trust with colleagues and be reminded of the role that finance can play in helping the NHS achieve its goals. 

The times they are a-changing

The HFMA has changed a lot over the years and widespread use of the internet in the late ‘90s meant its publications could more easily reach the members. Before then, you would get a paper-based newsletter or magazine and would have to order copies of new publications via a hand written form. For a long period, it was closely aligned with The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), but works with all accounting bodies now ensuring consistent briefings on accountancy pronouncements, guidance and membership liaison. Finally, the educational offerings have been enhanced over time, which is incredibly useful for members who wish to utilise it – for example, the HFMA’s bitesize courses.

In previous roles, we would secure a suite of educational resources for the finance and audit staff – specifically the various HFMA NHS finance e-learning modules. At one time, people had access to up to 22 of the different modules so that they could learn about anything from NHS leases and capital charges to the way the commissioning system works, as well as contracting and costing.

An ever-changing membership body

I can't speak highly enough of the HFMA and the opportunities it offers to members both regionally and nationally. The organisation is constantly moving forward and finding ways to grow, whether that's the education products on offer, expanding the membership, or its concise and up to date news and briefings. The briefings are particularly valuable especially when it comes to summarising service planning guidance or breaking down complex and technical financial accounting issues. It is a UK-wide organisation and its branch networks, national conferences and events offer excellent opportunities to network and learn. 

The association is clear on which of the accounting standards are most pertinent to the health service, which have the most impact and which are coming down the track. If there is a financial change that people need to prepare for, the HFMA is the first one out of the block.  This brings value as not everyone has the time to plough through the fine detail of every central planning document.  For board papers and other briefings, you have a readily available source of key points and implications.

Friday’s emailed newsletters really hit the mark with links to the top issues that you can pick and mix from. As short reads, they are a good way of keeping up to date. Finally, the HFMA helps with keeping professional development up to date. When I look at my previous CPD submissions, the provider for so many of them say ‘HFMA’.

Presenting and networking

In the early 2000's I spotted a vacancy on the national Financial Management and Research Committee representing the West Midlands. The committee was kind enough to invite me to join.  When it changed to the Financial Policy & Research Committee I sat as a member at large and from 2014 was the committee’s NAO representative, sitting alongside other national bodies.  Making sure people in my organisation were accessing conferences, seminars and events rounded off support for the local HFMA branch.

I’ve benefitted from the connection to the HFMA by being asked to present at the annual Audit Committee conference in Rochester Row, both online and in person. This year I was pleased to be joined by two of my financial accounting director colleagues from the NAO.  It felt a bit like a passing of the baton and I know they enjoyed discussed key audit issues with the chairs of various NHS audit committees.

If you get to the conferences, exploring exhibitor stands is well worth the effort, especially to see the innovation on offer. The HFMA national conference is a particularly good opportunity to meet up with former colleagues to find out what they’re doing and what challenges they’re facing.  For people I don’t know, I try to spot someone standing on their own, introduce myself and learn about their role and where they work.  I’m conscious that not so many years ago, I was that person.

Membership? Just do it

If I could give any advice to someone contemplating joining the HFMA, I would say: ‘just do it’, especially for colleagues starting out in their NHS finance career. The association is made of its members and they will benefit most from what they put into it.  It's there for you and long may that continue.

Want to become a member of the HFMA? Learn more here.