A whole service response

by Mark Knight

14 May 2020

All parts of the NHS have played their part in rising to the challenge presented by the Covid-19 pandemic

I was humbled and deeply moved by this week’s Hospital programme on BBC2 featuring the Royal Free and Barnet hospitals. The programme was filmed during a three-week period in March and April when the Covid-19 virus was hitting its peak and it captures the challenges facing the hospital and its staff as they deliver care to patients and their families.

The dedication and hard work of our clinical colleagues cannot be celebrated enough, worthy of far more than a round of applause each week!  In a similar way, I am hearing about the dedication our members are showing in supporting the frontline.

You have kept finances moving and hit the initial deadlines on accounts submission. But as well as delivering the basics in difficult circumstances, there are examples in all organisations of innovative thinking where finance staff have thought outside the box to achieve real value.  And we have also focused, in our weekly magazine, on some of the finance staff who have been re-deployed into different roles.  I clap for all of you every Thursday in addition to our clinical colleagues.

As you can see from this virtual magazine, HFMA is still alive and kicking with lots going on.  We’re having to think about how we move everything online and our team has been very adept at doing that. In addition, we’ve been running a regular Friday continuing professional development webinar, which has showcased some of the free Bitesize material we have put on the Electronic Staff Record.

 All our webinars attract audiences in their hundreds, so we know they are popular with the membership. We are also running committees, hub meetings and Skills Development Network services online and once again our team has done a great job.

Some members have asked us about the financial health of HFMA.  There is no doubt that the crisis will hit the association hard. Our board is working with HFMA finance director Ian Turner and myself to minimise the impact of the loss of income that naturally results from having to stop so much of what we do, notably postponing events and closing our conference centre. 

Thanks to good trading years over the last decade, we have enough reserves to protect us for some time and enough cash in the short to medium term to manage through the crisis. However, along with every other charity, we will have to think carefully about our future financial strategy going forward. 

We will deliver all we have promised to the NHS in terms of the various groups and programmes and we thank you for your support.  Training and development remain important during this period – arguably more so while staff are working from home and more isolated. We have a range of high-quality education and training packages that could help you in this area. 

Finally, we are now getting sponsors and members asking about the annual conference in December.  Although still six months away, it could be affected depending on how the virus spreads as the country eases lockdown restrictions over the coming weeks and months.

So the simple answer at this stage is that, we just don’t know. The official position is that the event is going ahead in the normal way and we are continuing to plan for the annual National Healthcare Finance Awards, which will be launched next month.  In the meantime, we are drawing up a range of options from running fully virtually to a trimmed down event.

We have many bookings in already, but not as many as usual.  For an association to work we have to ‘associate’, so please get your booking to us soon to take advantage of the early booker rate, which is available until the end of June.  Another reason to book as soon as possible is there may be an upper limit placed on delegates, in which case we’ll operate on a ‘first come, first served basis’.

Check out the links in this magazine – we’ve got more than ever to offer to our members.  And, in turn, we’re very grateful to you our members for your continued support.  Many of you will be getting reminders about your personal membership fees which have remained the same price for 12 consecutive years.  We trust an investment in the association always pays dividends and helps support individuals and organisations.  Once again, thank you!