An interview with Edward Gold

by Edward Gold

14 June 2021

Edward Gold, head of costing and income at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, studied for the HFMA higher diploma in healthcare business and finance in 2019 before completing the MBA in healthcare business and finance, graduating with a distinction earlier in 2021. Edward spoke to the HFMA about his reasons for studying, highlights and challenges he encountered, and what he has taken away from his learning experience.

What were your reasons for enrolling on the HFMA higher qualifications and subsequently the MBA?
I think CPD is so important to us as finance professionals. In the public sector especially I think there is an almost moral and ethical dimension to us ensuring that we are on top of our game and that we are helping the NHS provide a quality and cost-effective service. Beyond that, I think CPD helps massively with motivation. By consistently considering and approaching issues in different ways it helps keep the day job fresh and interesting. 

I also like having something tangible to show at the end of your learning. With CPD, this isn’t always the case and I appreciate this isn’t the priority for lots of people but having that objective assessment and having formal qualifications that I could point to at the end of the process was a selling point for me.

Did you plan on studying for the MBA from the outset, or was it a decision you made during your initial studies?
I didn’t really have any specific plans when I started my study. I knew the option to study for the MBA was there, but I had no expectation or assumptions. When I enrolled, I hadn’t really done any sustained formal learning for 20 years, so I was a bit unsure at how I would actually respond to the demands of studying alongside my work and personal life. 

It was actually a last-minute decision to continue studying for the MBA. At the end of 2019 I was awarded the HFMA Tony Whitfield Student of the Year Award, so that gave me a bit of a spur and a bit of confidence boost that I did know what I was doing. 

What was your experience like with the format of the qualifications?
I really found the format useful. The online aspect was one of the main reasons I applied, and the format lends itself massively to flexible learning. While there are scheduled online class sessions, a lot of the focus is around preparation, doing your own reading, looking at case studies, and applying the theory to your own situation so that by the time you get to the online sessions, you’ve already given it some thought and have got that level of insight. 

The sessions are more about discussion, sharing experiences and differences and adding the richness of detail rather than learning something new. Being able to do all of the preparation whenever it worked for me made balancing it alongside other commitments that much easier. 

What benefits have you seen from the course to your role?
For me, the main benefit has been how I approach the management and leadership aspects of my role. A lot of the content is common sense or instinctive, but the studying and discussion process forces you to stop and really consider the way you approach issues and real-life situations. 

Throughout Covid, the way we do our jobs, the way we act as teams, and the way we form and maintain relationships has changed dramatically. I think having that opportunity to step back and bring in the academic side of things and apply the theory to issues I see around me has been invaluable. The qualification has really helped me think objectively about how I can best support my team and how I can get the best out of them in the challenging circumstances.

What were the main highlights and challenges you had while studying? 
I think the main challenge was getting through the content alongside other commitments. I certainly anticipated the time management being a potential issue, and it was difficult, but thanks to the online learning format, it was manageable.

In terms of highlights, the group discussions and listening to that diversity of viewpoint was really enlightening. Within my group of learners we had clinical colleagues such as consultants and registrars, as well as finance colleagues from trusts and CCG. During group discussions, having that difference in experience and viewpoint led to some really insightful conversations and my eyes were opened to the challenges that other teams face, not just in terms of finance and clinical viewpoints, but seeing the challenges that CCG finance colleagues face was very interesting. I think it’s easy when we’re working within our teams to think that your way of thinking is the only way, the group discussions really drove home how this is not the case.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective learners, what would this be?
I think for someone who has already signed up, my advice would be to actively participate in the group sessions. Your experience is every bit as relevant as someone else’s. It might be different but that’s fine and it’s actually through exploring those differences that you really start to understand the issues in depth and get into the richness of the content. 

For somebody who hasn’t yet applied but is thinking of doing so, I would say to just go for it, give it a shot. It had been more than 20 years since I last did any similar kind of study, so I had my doubts as to what it would be like but it has been a really positive and enjoyable experience.

The next intake or the HFMA qualifications in healthcare business and finance starts in September. Click here for more information and for details on how to apply.

Click here for more information on the MBA in healthcare finance programme.

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