'A very fine swan indeed' - How the Sherwood Forest Hospitals finance team became HSJ Finance Team of The Year | Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson

‘Ugly duckling’ may not be an appropriate description of anyone, says Paul Robinson, chief financial officer at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, but as he explains in this blog, he feels Hans Christian Anderson’s well-known children’s story perfectly illustrates the trust’s finance team when describing the transformation to a swan.

As chief financial officer I am proud to lead the finance team and proud of its achievements over the past two years. Over this time the team has focused on working towards excellence and embraced future-focused finance,  improving NHS finance for everyone, recognising the need for strong financial skills and understanding across all professional groups to deliver good patient care and value for tax payers. In doing so, the team has been awarded level 2 accreditation – a first for the Midlands – and has been named Finance Team of the Year by the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The secret to this success

It’s plain and simple: the team identified they wanted things to change and went and did it!

It all started in November 2017 when the NHS Staff Survey results showed that finance needed support to help the department become a better place to work. A staff engagement group was established as a means of addressing this. The group is made up of volunteers from all areas of finance and any grade, with the one common goal to ‘make things better.’

The first action was to set up a survey to encourage suggestions for improvement anonymously. We had an overwhelming amount of issues to discuss and communicate solutions via the monthly team brief to start with. We also looked at policies to improve work life. As this scheme has matured there are fewer gripes and many more positive messages to read out.

The survey identified that the finance team needed to strengthen our understanding of how we contribute to the success of the trust. As a result, we agreed to facilitate all staff taking time away from the office and joined the volunteers in supporting our services to patients.

The impact of having an engaged and visible finance team has been felt throughout the trust. We have established closer working relationships trust-wide, improved information flows and improved knowledge and understanding of patient services and how the finance team can provide support. Sharing of best practice outside of the organisation has also led to wider engagement.

It is almost impossible to put a financial value on the benefit of the way we are now all working together. However, the positive comments from others, the change in culture, the better communication and better education have had an impact that some could argue is more difficult to achieve than savings. We have met our control total for the past three years in a row, which shows the focus of finance within the trust and our team’s drive to improve our use of resources score.

What’s next

The team has identified where further changes would make a further difference and has established groups to drive the journey to towards excellence in how we develop and support our people, and how we improve our outputs to support the trust’s financial strategy.

Winning awards and gaining accreditation is pleasing as it demonstrates that others can see how the team has transformed - the most rewarding part for me is that the team, just like the swan in the fairy story, has looked into the lake and recognised it for themselves.

Paul Robinson is chief financial officer at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. You can follow the trust on Twitter @SFHFT


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