my brilliant career - finance

Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 34 35

Securing increased revenues from PCTs is just one of the new challenges facing mental health finance director Colin Martin, reports Emma Forrest

Name: Colin Martin

Job title: Director of finance, Tees and North East Yorkshire trust

Age: 39


Describe your career path

I was born in Edinburgh but brought up round here [on Teesside]. When I came home after polytechnic I knew I wanted to work in accountancy but didn't know where.

I had had a spell in local government and then worked for the local health authority, South Tees, after a friend told me there was a job going there.

Then I joined one of our predecessor trusts, South Tees Community and Mental Health trust, in 1993.

I had become deputy finance director by the time South Tees became Tees and North East Yorkshire trust in 1999 and acted as finance director until January 2000, when I was formally appointed to the role.

I've been very lucky; I've had lots of jobs and only moved house once, when I got this job, and we moved to a bigger house. I only live three miles away.

Has the job changed recently?

For the past eight months I have been acting director of our south locality, which covers South Tees region, after the director, Jim Paterson, suddenly became ill and went on long-term sick leave.

How have you managed to juggle both roles?

From the outset I had to be very rigorous in terms of the time I spent on each role so that I didn't meet myself coming the other way. Jim has recently begun taking back some of his duties so I have begun moderating my time back towards finance; it is now split 50/50 whereas before it was 60/40.

I work with an excellent finance team and devolved as much as I could to them. I have been back and forth from St Luke's Hospital in Middlesbrough, where Jim is based.

The general managers there are great; they know their job and it was my job to help keep the momentum behind some of the systems we have put in place there on delivering and changing services.

I am not a clinician but I felt I could give a different perspective. I have had some days wondering what was going to happen next, but it has been really enjoyable.

Did you plan to work in mental health?

Mental health chose me, and it grew on me but I now feel I am an ambassador for mental health services.

Until recently it was very difficult to get a profile for the sector; it did not register on the scale of waiting lists and targets.

One of my specific targets over the past 12 months has been to increase revenue. PCTs have recognised the role that good mental health services can play and we were very pleased to secure three-year arrangements with our main commissioners.

Before these arrangements were put in place we would never have been able to fund a 24/7 crisis service or an early intervention team as we did not know where our finances were coming, from from one year to the next.

How has the role of finance directors changed?

Ten years ago I would never have imagined that as a finance director I would have the role I have now. The old school would be considered successful if they just broke even, but now I am an executive member of the board and am expected to contribute to a huge number of issues.

You should not keep a narrow interpretation of what finance is. From early on I have tried to understand the service and the context in which it is delivered. It is important to try to understand what clinicians are trying to understand.

Are mental health trusts missing out by not being able to apply for foundation trust status?

If we were not a mental health trust we could have gone for foundation status; we have three stars and I feel confident that our finances are robust enough.

But we were not invited.

Mental health will eventually get its own paymentby-results system, but the framework is not yet in place to support moving to foundation status. But I think mental health trusts will eventually be invited to become foundations, possibly in 2006. Hopefully the incentives that exist now will still be in place.

What do you do when you are not at work?

Typical accountant stuff; I do very solitary things like play golf and do half marathons, the Great North Run and long-distance walks.

I also help out with my local Boys Brigade, which is not work but no-one could accuse it of being relaxing. l Further information The role of finance directors in the NHS has changed considerably in recent years. Though accountancy qualifications and extensive experience of financial management is still essential, it is likely to be a board-level position. The role is increasingly likely to include responsibility for information management and technology, trust performance or reprovision of buildings and may also be a deputy chief executive position.

Moving up the ladder to become a chief executive is not uncommon.

Finance directors of large NHS organisations can expect to earn between£60,000 and£80,000 a year.

Healthcare Financial Management Association www. hfma. org

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Health Advisory Network www. ipf. co. uk/healthcare/

NHS financial management trainee scheme www. futureleaders. nhs. uk/fmts/introduction