Exciting times

by Alex Gild

08 June 2018

We should look forward to the opportunity to celebrate the NHS’s past – and the promise of greater certainty over future funding

Birthdays are exciting times, often yielding surprises and occasionally satisfying high expectations.

The NHS’s 70th birthday on 5 July 2018 is going to be no different. It will be a national celebration of all that is good about this prized public service and the people who work together to make it the best it can be for patients. It will surely be a very happy birthday for our NHS.

However, expectation is building so much for this particular birthday that we might wonder if there are to be any surprises.

It certainly comes as no surprise that 2017/18 was one of the toughest years in recent NHS history, with significant pressures seen across the service and public concern as to the impact on patients and staff from demand, workforce and financial pressures.

NHS finance teams have just submitted accounts, giving one view of the huge challenge of the year gone by, but also of fantastic delivery for patients across the service, in spite of this.

Sadly, in a sometimes bitter backdrop to our positive work, there is occasional criticism of the finance function, some of which is personalised to particular finance leaders from certain quarters of the media.

We know the objectivity and integrity of our profession is strongly sustained by the work we do in our teams every day, influencing the required culture of integrity, truth and transparency against which we provide our professional support to our organisations.

The majority of us come to work to do a good job for patients. We are a learning profession, and we should be seen to learn and adjust from mistakes, openly and transparently. Don’t let the media or others devalue in your own mind the strong, positive contribution our finance teams make to the NHS every day.

With that nod to boosting our confidence, it’s time to look forward with increased hope. There are positive changes signalled that herald a birthday present the NHS, staff and patients really need.

First, and at last, there is explicit political support to ensure the safe future of the NHS. Second, NHS leaders, validated by economic commentators, are able to be really clear what funding increase is needed over a longer period than political cycles, and our health secretary understands the position.

A shared strategic intention to develop a 10-year plan for the NHS that government may back with enough funding to keep pace with the needs (health education, prevention and treatment) of our growing and ageing population could be a tremendous gift for the future. It would give certainty and help our NHS push on to 100 years and beyond.  

The recent announcement that NHS England and NHS Improvement are to combine executive leadership and management structures to support emerging system integration, organisation improvement, operational delivery and regulation across regions with a single voice is very welcome news indeed. It’s a positive sign of the times, becoming brighter together, with an assembly of stakeholders who care about, and are invested in, the NHS – which should provide the framework necessary for the NHS to be fit for the future.

As the NHS finance function, and valued people and professionals, we have much to offer and do in this next phase. So, let’s continue to be that key influencer and absolutely critical delivery partner to the NHS’s ongoing development.

Exciting times? I think so. Happy birthday our NHS.

Contact the president on president@hfma.org.uk

This blog first appeared as a comment in the June issue of Healthcare Finance. More content is available here.