Future Focused Finance’s mission is to empower everyone to take on responsibility for managing the NHS’s valuable resources in order to maximise patient care, says Andy Bell

Before we get into what the Future Focused Financeprogamme is and why it is important for you to understand (especially if you are not an accountant), let’s break down the name.

Andy Bell

‘Future Focused Finance is an attempt to look at what finance needs to be in the NHS in the long term’

The words “future” and “focused” are words we can all get behind.

The future is a place where we leave the problems of today behind in favour of the solutions of tomorrow.

Focused inspires visions of a world where all wasted time and bureaucracy are set aside and dynamic, patient oriented activities arise.

The word finance can evoke images of someone in a grey suit sitting in a darkened room saying “no” a lot. Whether or not there is any truth to the perception of finance as bean counters who are more interested in bottom lines than bedside manners is largely irrelevant, the key is that this is not what our patients need.

Enter Future Focused Finance. At its simplest, it is an attempt to look at what finance needs to be in the NHS in the long term and then making that happen. It breaks this challenge into three areas:

  • Securing excellence – make sure every pound we spend maximises patient care using efficient financial processes that everyone understands.
  • Knowing the business – give finance staff the skills and knowledge to effectively engage with clinicians, managers and support staff to ensure that finance happens as part of our service, rather than picking up the bill at the end.
  • Fulfilling our potential – we need great finance people to secure excellence and get to know the business. How do we make them want to join and stay in the NHS? We need to make sure that we spread best practice and continuously improve.

How is this different?

Some of you, finance and non-finance alike, will have heard this all before and seen varying results and, like me, are somewhat cynical about such things. This will be leading you to ask a perfectly valid question: “How is this different?”

I’ve asked myself the same thing and there are a few reasons to sit up and take notice:

  • National commitment and cohesion – the finance directors for the six key healthcare bodies in England (NHS England, Health Education England, Monitor, the Department of Health, the NHS Trust Development Authority and the Healthcare Financial Management Association) have all signed up. This is a national, pan-organisational commitment to the same objective - this is the NHS finance equivalent of a solar eclipse.
  • Local delivery – all finance directors are being asked to commit by signing a physical return stating their commitment to the programme.  Also there are now more than 100 “value makers” all over the country tasked with championing it in their organisations and beyond.
  • New methods of communication – how do you ensure a national concept is delivered locally in a consistent and supported way? One way is to get your smartphone out and tweet @NHSFFF on Twitter, watch the channel on YouTube or engage in conversation on the dedicated communications hub. The tech savvy among you will point out that the internet, Twitter and YouTube have existed for a number of years and you’d be right. However, up until three months ago there was no forum for the 15,000 finance staff in England to share problems and come up with community solutions; now there is.
  • Practical solutions – the first outputs from the Future Focused Finane workstreams are now being rolled out to be shared nationally. There will be real, tangible benefits from these programmes with the goal of making best practice common practice.

The tagline for Future Focused Finance is “making people count” and aside from perhaps suggesting that individuals will be compelled to do sums, its real message is that finance is about people and the decisions they make.

‘Everyone has a responsibility to manage our valuable NHS resources to maximise patient care’

“People” doesn’t mean accountants. It means everyone: from doctors to porters, nurses to chief executives; everyone has a responsibility to manage our valuable NHS resources to maximise patient care.

The mission is to empower everyone to take on that responsibility by giving them the best possible finance support to guide them.

What do you want from me?

At this point we need as many people as possible to join in.

‘All you need is a passion for making sure that the NHS is the best it can be’

You don’t have to be an accountant or a budget holder and you don’t even have to work for the NHS.

All you need is a passion for making sure that the NHS is the best it can be, and a curiosity as how you can contribute to ensuring we use our scarce resources wisely.

So log on to the website, follow us on Twitter, look up your local value maker and, most importantly, make yourself count.

Andy Bell is head of management accounts in the finance department of London Ambulance Service Trust