NHS is all about people

by John Williams

01 October 2019


This month’s member in focus is John Williams, the newly appointed executive director of finance at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. John is a regular user of twitter sharing details of his work day and building a community. We spoke with him about his career journey and the power of social media in big NHS organisations.

How did you start your NHS finance journey?
I began my NHS career in September 2004 straight after completing my university degree, in accounting, on the NHS National Graduate Management Training Scheme. I was on the finance strand of the course, naturally, and was based primarily across organisations within Nottinghamshire. The scheme was fantastic for me; the combination of the work placements, skills development and professional qualification programme really gave me a good grounding and most importantly enabled me to meet lots of people and start building my professional network. I still enjoy going back and helping with the recruitment to the graduate scheme each year, my own way of giving something back.

After graduating from the training scheme I spent time developing my knowledge and skills through a number of roles at Derby Teaching Hospitals, as it was at the time, and Chesterfield Royal Hospital where I was deputy director of finance and more recently managing director of its Wholly Owned Subsidiary (DSFS), which included leading estates, facilities, procurement, IT and finance functions. This summer I moved to Sheffield Children’s as executive director of finance.

Why did you get involved with the HFMA?
I have been a member of the HFMA ever since I started in the NHS. Primarily this has been a way of building and maintaining networks, but also to develop knowledge and understanding of key issues. The East Midlands region has a really strong branch enabling informal catch-up discussions as well as more formal deputy director forum and annual conference, both of which are great in creating diary space for learning from others and a chance to discuss issues with colleagues. I am a member of the Payment Systems Special Interest Group, which helps both with insight into the national direction of travel with regards payment reform and enables views of the organisation in which I am based to be played into national thinking.

What’s the most important HFMA member benefit for you?
The networking through both the local branch and national forums including annual conference are the biggest benefit. The news and information shared both via the website and the monthly magazine are great. I have more recently had team members progress through the HFMA qualifications which benefits not only the individual but the broader teams. It’s always good to keep up to speed with who’s moved roles also!

How are you utilising social media in your new job?
I am a keen user of twitter - @johnwilliamsNHS. I use this primarily for work purposes and find this a very helpful way of sharing news views and some of the things I have been up to, spreading good practice and learning from others.. I have had the opportunity to work with a few leaders who have used this to really good effect in engaging people across a given organisation. It’s always great to meet people in person, but this is another way of communicating with colleagues without geographical boundaries. I also keep up to date with healthcare news through this channel; there are brilliant handles out there and some great virtual conversations to be had!!

Has it helped for your career progression?
Twitter is a great way of getting to meet people, generate learning from others to apply in your own workplace and learn about different organisations (particularly helpful if going for an interview!) 

What piece of advice do you have for people who are starting their NHS finance journey now?
WELL DONE, You have made a great choice. A few snippets based on my career to date; always remember the NHS is all about people; patients and our workforce, our focus should be on these. NHS finance in particular is a very small world, build a strong network. Don’t let organisational culture deter you from doing what your values suggest as being right. Be brave. If you find yourself in a role you are not enjoying, take what you can from it, and find a more suitable role quickly (perhaps with the help on a coach or mentor, the HFMA can help in this regard).


Follow HFMA on twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to take part in the online conversation! 
John Williams
John Williams
Executive director of finance, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust