HFMA: responding to the impact of Covid-19

by Mark Knight

18 June 2020

As you might have noticed, it’s been a busy couple of months at the association. We have surprised ourselves with the amount of professional content we’ve been able to make available to members. This has included our new weekly online magazine, continuing professional development webinars, policy documents, podcasts and free bitesize courses available via the Electronic Staff Record.

I hope you have found this useful (see HFMA's Covid-related publications and news content here). During the service’s initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been making this material available without restriction. However as we move into the next phase of the virus response – and explore how we reintroduce more of the business as usual – we will slowly be tightening up access to non-members, recognising that our primary duty is to you.

We are hoping the printed version of Healthcare Finance will also be returning in a new quarterly guise to provide in-depth analysis, interviews and case studies to supplement the new weekly news service. We are excited about these developments in how we communicate with members, help them to stay informed and support the NHS finance family. We hope you will like them too.

We are also adapting our network content to be delivered online and we’ve run quite a few sessions as webinars. The same goes for our Skills Development Network content in certain regions and, of course, our professional committees.

Our conference centre – 110 Rochester Row – remains closed and our staff have been putting together ‘stay safe’ guidelines. The tricky decision will be knowing when to go back to physical meetings – we cannot ignore the additional value of networking and meeting in person. I suspect, in the autumn, we may be experimenting with a hybrid approach.  This means, perhaps, exploring webcasts with a small audience, building carefully in line with government guidance and as we gain confidence.

December’s annual conference is very much in our minds and we are drawing up a variety of options. The board of trustees will consider those in September and we’ll keep you posted.  Whatever happens, we will still be running the HFMA National Healthcare Finance Awards. We’ll be launching these very shortly – so keep your eyes peeled – and we’ll have some news about some new categories that we are planning to unveil.

In other more sombre news, the HFMA board last week agreed a package of measures to help HFMA stay afloat. Our estimated loss up until the end of June this year is around £650,000 before considering the loss in value of our investments.  This is the largest ever deficit for the association at a time when we were investing in our services. We are fortunate to have a good level of reserves so we can weather this storm, but we’re all agreed that any future losses of this scale could jeopardise the long-term financial health of the association.

I have to say our financial concerns would have been a lot greater without the support we have received from you and your organisations. Paying us quickly has helped our cash flow and patience with us re-orienting our services has been greatly appreciated.

The measures include the termination of eleven staff contracts and a pay cut for HFMA staff for up to a year. That may not be enough going forward and we cannot rule out further redundancies. We also agreed on some cost cutting measures across a whole spectrum of activity as we look to continue to hold down personal subscription rates (for the 13th year running).

Given my earlier sombre news and in the spirit of leaving on a high, I have an announcement to make. At the board meeting, it was agreed we should ask Caroline Clarke to undertake another year as president. This will mean she will lead the organisation through this difficult period and on until December 2021.  She has accepted this proposal and we are fortunate to have such an important person as our leader and someone who genuinely cares about her profession.

I am sure you will agree this is a pragmatic step that will be a major benefit to the association, providing stability and more time to deliver Caroline’s agenda based around Taking pride in our future. As always please feel free to contact me on chiefexec@hfma.org.uk