by Mark Knight

20 December 2016

The HFMA annual conference is a focal point for the association’s year. It remains just a part of HFMA’s work and events programme that now spans multiple faculties and networks, conferences and webinars, policy briefings and responses and news output. But the annual conference remains a special event.

At the end of the calendar year and into the final third of the financial year, it is a must attend event at the beginning of December for many finance directors and their teams. We continue to provide a good balance of all the main system leaders and commentators alongside a programme of more detailed workshops (see coverage here). And there are also popular sessions that aim to motivate – sending finance practitioners back to the office inspired to reengage with the daily challenges of commissioning and delivering services in a financially challenged NHS.

On a personal level, I love to see HFMA networking in action. We have a very special community in NHS finance – providing both professional support and friendship – and while the networking happens all through the year (in and away from events), the conference is without doubt the jewel in the crown.

There is no denying that the NHS – and NHS finance practitioners perhaps in particular – faces huge challenges in the current climate. But I think the HFMA network really comes into its own at these times. Professional mutual support has never been more important – nor has the ability to step outside of the office and discuss issues with people who understand exactly what you are facing.

Our job at HFMA is both simple and complex. What our role boils down to is supporting finance practitioners. But this translates into wide ranging activities. First we want to ensure your views are represented in the development and implementation of policy. Our credibility to be the voice of NHS finance is based on our membership and with now more than 11,000 members across all classes, we cemented this representative role this year.

Our biannual NHS financial temperature check provides us with a way of tracking finance director views of current performance and the challenges ahead. Spearheaded by our policy and technical director Paul Briddock, this work informs our discussions with system leaders and our whole work programme. It also helps us engage with the media on the issues that are important to you.

But this work is just the tip of the iceberg, with huge amounts of policy and technical work sitting beneath it. Check out our briefings section on the HFMA website (revamped earlier this year) for the long list. But a revised NHS efficiency map and our latest NHS finance staff census (this year covering the whole UK) stand out for me from the more than 50 briefings, guides, infographics and consultation responses the association has put out in 2016.

The association’s role in highlighting the need and facilitating discussions about changes to the planning system demonstrate what the association is about. Our focus is often the detail of governance and payment systems that the media and public have little interest in hearing about or understanding. Our goals are to find pragmatic solutions, not assign blame.

Elsewhere our Healthcare Costing for Value Institute has led the way in championing value-based healthcare and supporting NHS providers to develop more robust cost data – so important to understanding value. It remains an exciting agenda.

Our events programme – from branch, faculty and national events and including a growing series of webinars – delivered more than 100,000 hours of continuing professional development. Much of the non-virtual programme was delivered out of our thriving conference centre in central London.

And our news services – weekly alerts, the website and your own Healthcare Finance magazine – have also, we hope, kept you informed and helped to showcase good practice and different responses to common challenges.

We are already excited about 2017, having just launched our masters-level qualifications that provide a pathway to an MBA in healthcare business and finance. We are sure this meets the demands of the finance community and others keen to pursue a greater understanding of business and finance.

This work programme depends on a committed team at HFMA and an amazing volunteer workforce across NHS finance. We have been ably led by our 2016 president – Shahana Khan, before she handed over the chains of office to new president Mark Orchard. And we can’t forget the support of our corporate sponsors, who help to underwrite our work programme. So it really is a team effort.

The NHS as a whole faces significant challenges in delivering high quality services that are sustainable for the long term. The finance function is well-equipped to play its part in this transformation. And the HFMA will continue to support finance practitioners to ensure this transformation is successful.

I hope you all have a happy Christmas and look forward to seeing many of you in the new year.