Financial pride

by Mark Knight

01 July 2020

Promoting best practice in financial management and governance is a core component of the HFMA’s mission. And our awards programme is one of the main ways we showcase and celebrate this best practice.

We are proud of the way our HFMA Awards – or HFMA National Healthcare Finance Awards to give them their full title – have grown over the years. There were awards programmes in the past, but the current awards started back in 2004 with a single award for the Accounts Team of the Year (won by Isle of Wight Healthcare NHS Trust).

The awards have grown considerably since then. Last year, we received 70 entries across nine award categories. Winning an award means something to the winners – as it should. We see this every year at the awards ceremony – traditionally held during the annual conference in December, which we still hope will go forward in some form this year. There is real excitement on the faces of all those on the shortlist and joy (and occasional fist pumping) for the winners when their organisation’s or their own name appears on the big screen.

We know there is competition within branches and between branches to make the shortlists for the various awards and to come out on top. And we love it.

That’s exactly what we intended – for the awards to grow into something that has a buzz about them. They can and will get bigger, but we think we have established them as an important feature of the financial year.

There is so much good work being undertaken across the NHS finance function – the awards can only scratch the surface. But it is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution that finance teams make to the delivery of high-quality health and social care.

Remember you’ve got to be in it to win it – and, if you need a further incentive, we are constantly hearing that simply entering or being entered for the awards boosts morale across the finance department.

The awards have special significance this year. First, our president Caroline Clarke has set a theme for the year of Taking pride in our future. Taking pride in what we deliver – and always looking for opportunities to improve – is exactly what the awards are all about. Finance and good governance may seem like dry subjects to an external audience, but we are dealing with scarce public funds. It is vital to ensure those resources are used appropriately and to deliver the best value – money wasted through inefficiency is money that can’t be invested back in frontline care.

So we should be proud of our role, recognising that we contribute to providing a platform on which we can build an efficient and equitable health service.

The second reason why the awards are important this year is the backdrop against which they take place. This has not been a normal year with the emergence of Covid-19 requiring an amazing response from all disciplines across the NHS.

Obviously, we all owe a debt of gratitude to our frontline staff, who have selflessly worked long hard hours in difficult circumstances to do the best they possibly can for patients. Words are not enough. But wider support teams including finance have also played their part.

They have gone about their normal tasks – closing accounts, ensuring suppliers are paid, logging the exceptional costs incurred in meeting the pandemic – in often difficult circumstances.

And there have been plenty of finance staff who have been redeployed to support the frontline in other ways – getting hands-on with personal protective equipment, modelling demand, organising staff testing or actually spending time on wards. ‘How can I help?’ appears to be the phrase on all finance staff lips.

So as well as our usual range of awards – from the individual awards for finance director, deputy director and clinician of the year through to the awards for costing , governance, training, finance team, value and Future-Focused Finance – we’ve added two new awards to recognise this year’s unique context.

The Embracing Technology Award is for teams that have used technology and/or digital solutions to either support finance activities during the pandemic or to improve financial processes in general. And our Overcoming Adversity Award will focus on teams that have overcome very significant challenges faced during the pandemic. This might include working with reduced staffing levels, delivering major growth in procurement or managing sizeable charitable donations. Surprise us – tell us what you’ve achieved and what you had to overcome to do so.

We are also thinking about how we can recognise some of the many HFMA members who have made an individual contribution during the pandemic this year and we’ll have more to say about this later in the year.

Back to our national awards, there may only be one winner in each category, but the reality is that what we are really recognising is the work done by all finance teams. You should be proud of your contribution and we are proud to support you.

The HFMA Awards are now open for nominations.