Go and see the clinical teams in action

by Samantha Russell

02 April 2019

Samantha Russell, the costing finance manager at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, started working in the costing team when patient level costing was just starting to emerge. 

Samantha tells us how the HFMA is helping to keep her updated on the latest developments and providing her with support networks and skills development to thrive in the developing world of costing, which is continuing to keep costing accountants on their toes.

How did you start your NHS journey?
Shortly after completing my A levels in 2002, my grandmother spotted a job advert in a local paper for a finance assistant at our local hospital. It was my first interview. I was offered the job and have been working here ever since!

I started out in management accounting roles and then a secondment opportunity arose in the costing team to assist in the implementation of a Patient Level Information & Costing System (PLICS). That was over a decade ago, but costing has evolved so much during that time and has been a challenging and exciting area of finance to be involved in.

Why did you get involved with the HFMA?
I joined the HFMA very early on in my career after it was recommended by my manager. The membership fee was (and still is) very reasonable in comparison to the membership fees for accountancy bodies, and it was much more relevant to working in NHS finance. I remember reading the Healthcare Finance magazine, but some of it definitely went over my head back then!  Still, looking back it was useful in helping me to start to understand the bigger picture and issues facing NHS finance. I also remember attending events such as the NHS Operating Game and the South Central branch annual conference.

I now use the HFMA resources much more than I did in the early days. Being in a costing role I’m affected by a wide variety of developing areas such as national tariffs, costing standards and technology innovations, and by reading the Healthcare Finance magazine (which I now read cover to cover!), news briefing emails and HFMA briefings and publications, I feel confident that I’m aware of the latest developments and best practice which may assist my team and my organisation.

When the HFMA qualification launched I was keen to get involved.  I’m now undertaking the HFMA Higher Diploma to assist in continuing my professional development. The HFMA e-learning is also a great resource and I like that the modules are updated regularly and have been developed with experts in the field.

What’s the most important benefit of being a member of the Healthcare Costing for Value Institute?
The Healthcare Costing for Value Institute offers great networking opportunities to share ideas (and frustrations!). It’s great to see presentations from other trusts on how they’re using the PLICS data and what improvements have been made as a result. This gives practical tips and ideas which you use to help get the most out of the PLICS data back at your organisation.

What’s your experience with the Institute events? 
I’ve attended a number of the Institute events over the last couple of years and the speakers and content has been excellent. The clinical forum was particularly engaging and helped provide some inspiration to our clinical engagement work at UHS.

What piece of advice do you have for others in NHS finance/people who are starting their NHS finance journey now?
Ask to go and see the clinical teams in action. Although departments are extremely busy, and you may feel you would be a burden, staff are usually very willing to make some time to show you around. It really helps deepen your understanding to be able to picture what goes on or be able to recall a “story” behind the cost centre. This should help you to ask relevant questions and enable you to provide a more meaningful and comprehensive service in return, while also developing your awareness of the challenges facing the front line.

The Healthcare Costing for Value Institute is hosting their Costing Conference on 10 April. Secure your place.

We provide training and development opportunities for NHS staff from all levels. Join our 14,000-strong network today and learn how you can get more involved with your local branch.

Samantha Russell
Samantha Russell
Finance manager, costing team, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
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