The View From: Sotiris Kyriacou FCCA, Head of Finance Development and Professionalism, NHS London
What is your main challenge?
We need the finance function to be fully engaged with finance staff development (FSD), but it has struggled with this because of time pressures and the volume and complexity of its other work. London is unique amongst strategic health authorities because it has yet to reconfigure its primary care trusts – so there are massive changes ahead. London has the highest vacancy rate in the NHS finance function in England – 19% – and recruitment and retention is central to FSD activity.
How important is the finance function to the NHS?
The NHS finance professional’s role is evolving and continuously changing. Increased competition and business regulation mean that the finance professional is now an essential contributor to strategy, risk management and business performance. We are business partners, providing professional leadership and strategic direction to trusts’ key stakeholders. Learning and development strategies incorporating continuous professional development have equipped NHS finance professionals with the necessary competencies for their role today.
Are NHS finance professionals better than in the past?
Yes – they have to be. Finance directors have become commercial strategic partners, devolving traditional director operational duties to deputies, placing work pressures further down the system. More qualified accountants have come from the private sector because of the financial crisis and that has brought a new mindset and approach.
What keeps you awake at night?
The current progression path to finance director has fundamental problems in terms of the low readiness of staff for promotion and a scarcity of opportunity for development. This is made worse by the low levels of existing systems to monitor staff movement and to develop talent and make this available across London. Only 13 of 400 available senior finance professionals have been identified by finance directors as ready for an FD post. This demonstrates a clear bottleneck in the talent pipeline for progression to FD. I worry about losing good staff, due to low morale and low confidence in the system. Staff with long service have grown tried of change and instability.
Number of qualifed finance professionals in NHS London: 638
Number of finance directors: 72
Total finance staff: 3150