President's tour: South West

by Mark Orchard

03 October 2017


The HFMA South West annual conference represented the eighth leg of my 13 branch UK tour and was always going to be a personal highlight. After all, the South West is my branch. I am a past chair of HFMA South West and remain a proud member and still serve on the committee.

Neil Kemsley, current branch chair and finance director at Plymouth Hospitals, reminded delegates that we have been punching above our weight recently in terms of supplying national presidents. Suzanne Tracey and Bill Shields (still a South West member, albeit currently working at the hospitals board in Bermuda) set the bar high. This year it has been my turn to fly the South West flag.

With her permission I was able to announce to the room that NHS Improvement's high achieving Elizabeth O'Mahony (still based in Taunton) will be joining our national board of trustees. And so, whichever way you look at it, this patch is on the map.

Nearly 220 delegates packed into the Bristol venue and as ever, the mood in the room was one of 'relentless optimism' (which also doubled as this year's conference theme). Neil had himself taken on the role of chairing the South West finance directors meetings at a time when other patches have experienced a vacuum following the demise of strategic health authorities. The network in this part of the world remains as strong as ever, and that is something none of us here would ever give up lightly. Supporting each other is something we do well.

Having been half way around the UK now I felt in a good position to reflect on how well we are doing. Almost three years ago we aligned our committed volunteer leadership across both the branch and what was then the South West Financial Skills Development (FSD) board. Under one brand, and with a united focus supported by HFMA, we have never looked back.

We have a very strong NHS finance management training scheme – run in conjunction with our partners in HFMA South Central and HFMA West Midlands. Indeed at this conference alone we had fifteen of our home grown graduate trainees in attendance.

And just over three years on from launching the HFMA South West accreditation scheme – under my branch chairmanship and as a direct response to Future-Focused Finance back in March 2014 – we now have twenty organisations accredited.

So, if you are an NHS finance professional working in the South West you are probably among the most supported in our profession across the UK.

Under Neil's leadership and Sarah Brampton before him, this branch works regularly with both HFMA Wales and HFMA South Central to host joint events. Most recently the branch has also increased its offering to students and has taken the wise move to broaden its offer across wider support disciplines including procurement (something that I know the North West has been very successful with over several years).

Back to the conference and it started as a bit of a Poole Hospital/ Dorset accountable care system affair. Following my opening address, we heard from Geoffrey Walker, Poole Hospital’s matron for medicine, specialist medicine, emergency and ambulatory care – one of our most decorated nurse leaders. And this was followed by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s chief officer Tim Goodson describing how health and care organisations in the area are creating our future together.

The HFMA South West awards are also worth a mention. While it was of course pleasing to see Dorset recognised for its system working, one particular highlight was hearing the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (with Suzanne Tracey having recently being appointed chief executive) marked out as being our workplace of the year.

Relentless is one word to describe the South West, but we also move forward with optimism. And once again this branch has proved that together we can continue to do this.


President's tour: Scotland
President's tour: Eastern
President's tour: Kent, Surrey and Sussex 
President's tour: Wales
President's tour: North West
President's tour: London
President's tour Yorkshire and Humber
President’s tour: West Midlands
Presidents's tour: South Central