Published: 14/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5951 Page 35

High Peak and Dales primary care trust finance director Philip Barrett can look out of his office window on a spring morning and see young lambs gambol across the nearby hills. It must be quite a different view from his previous role as group finance director at a heavy engineering firm.

An enforced career break after being made redundant made him take stock and consider working in the public sector. 'It was the first time I had been out of work since 1976 and I had just passed 50 too, so it was an opportunity to stop and think. I had spent too much time downsizing businesses and making people redundant, ' says Philip. 'I suppose I had a moment of realisation. I wanted to work in a sector that could give me greater satisfaction.' A brother who works as a practice manager had given Philip some knowledge of the NHS, something he was careful to build on for an interview with the PCT after seeing the job advertised in HSJ.

'I hesitated when I saw I was up against seasoned NHS finance people, but the interview panel was impressed by my reading up on the service.' Philip quickly had to get to grips with the working realities of NHS finance.

But he says that once the fundamentals of working within resource, cash and capital limits have been grasped, many of the accounting methods used are similar to the private sector.

'Undeniably it was a significant change; the ethos is very different. But in some ways it was less of a change than I had expected. I could trade off skills I had learned previously, ' he says.

What was a surprise, he says, was discovering how complicated a business a PCT can be. High Peak and Dales PCT is unusual in that it does not have one major acute provider; the area it covers is rural and sparsely populated, and it commissions from 14 acute trusts.

And there is a different motivation between working for the NHS and a private firm. 'The ethical dimension of looking to do maximum good for the maximum number of people is significantly different to an ethos of making money for shareholders, ' says Philip. 'Salary levels are comparable.

Some of the non-pay benefits are clearly not there, but the plus side is the immense job satisfaction. Helping people is very satisfying.'