A family affair

by Mark Knight

24 September 2020

We can’t run our annual conference in the usual way this year. Instead we will be running a virtual event spread across 12 days from 30 November to 11 December. And I can guarantee that our online festival of learning will be special, packed with content and give the opportunity for far more of the NHS finance community to attend and take part.

At the HFMA, we are firm believers in the ability to associate. Getting together, sharing pressures and solutions and developing those all-important networks is at the heart of what the HFMA does. We see the NHS finance function as a family and getting together is good for everyone.

The HFMA’s guidance, coverage of best practice, training and news output is all about supporting the community. But mutual support is another key component, which is why conferences where we meet up in person will continue to be a key part of our offering once it is safe and acceptable to do so. But the current context – in the middle of a global pandemic – means that we simply can’t think about a physical event involving such huge numbers anytime soon.

However, a virtual conference gives us exciting opportunities to develop the annual conference in other ways. First and foremost, our big aim this year is to involve far more of the finance community, allowing more people from all levels of the function to get involved.

Rather than buying tickets for individuals to attend in the normal way, this year we are asking organisations to buy licences that will allow up to 25 delegates to attend per organisation. That means finance directors can get far more of their teams involved.

You can expect the usual high standard programme, with a first week devoted to our learning labs or workshop sessions. We are now finalising the programme, but the usual wide range of topics will be  covered, helping you to choose those sessions that most closely align with your own work programmes or challenges. There really should be something for everybody.

It is going to be informative and highly interactive. And with the ability to catch up on missed sessions during the 12 days or even after the event has ended, you won’t have to limit your attendance to just a few workshops.

We’ve traditionally involved accountancy students in our annual conference, with students from the national or regional graduate training schemes attending as part of their exposure to the wider service. But this year, we will take that a step further by having one day set aside for a dedicated student conference. We think this is a really exciting development, helping to establish that sense of community across the whole country early on in these professionals’ careers.

Think of the second week of conference as where you’ll find our main stage plenary sessions. Here you will hear from NHS leaders addressing the key issues facing the NHS as it continues to meet the Covid-19 challenge, while also delivering a full range of non-Covid care.

It has been a year of learning. As a service, the NHS has learnt a lot about the coronavirus and how to treat it. It ramped up critical care capacity in unbelievably short periods of time and NHS staff have gained some completely justified appreciation for their work and commitment on the front line and in support services.

Finance teams have also responded nimbly – moving rapidly to homeworking in many cases, overseeing a rapidly introduced financial regime and making far greater use of technology. There are implications in all this for how the service moves forward – and you can expect these issues to be discussed at length.

Add in sessions from motivational speakers, a programme of roundtable discussions, a virtual exhibition, the HFMA annual general meeting and our all important HFMA Awards ceremony – and I hope you will agree that we have the makings of an event to remember.

We opened the conference up for booking last week, and the support for the event and the association is really encouraging. I hope you will join them and make this an occasion where we really can get as much of the finance function involved as possible. We may be taking the conference on line, but there is still a huge benefit in bringing the function together.

HFMA’s 12 days of conference takes place 30 November to 11 December at a desktop near you.
 More details and booking information.