Healthcare finance

The last year has seen a spectacular turnaround in the finances of the NHS. This was thanks to the efforts of all NHS staff, not just NHS accountants. But the challenge of delivering quality healthcare within constrained resources remains. In fact with an expected return to more traditional levels of growth in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, coupled with accelerating technological developments, the need for excellent financial management and improving value for money can only increase.

Understanding money
Good financial management in the health service demands that everybody understands how the money works, and how their decisions and actions impact on the organisation and the wider health economy in financial terms. Improving the financial literacy of the NHS is one of the aims of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).
The association provides a voice for the healthcare finance community and is well known for providing guidance, training and development for qualified accountants in the NHS, who make up the bulk of its membership. It also helps non-finance staff and non-executive directors (NEDs) to understand the complexities of the NHS finance system.

Guides and certificate
For instance it recently published two guides to reading the annual accounts of NHS trusts and primary care trusts. The guides were produced with support from public spending watchdog the Audit Commission and were sent free to organisations for distribution to their NEDs. But the association has also launched a far more ambitious programme to improve the general levels of financial understanding around the NHS.
In May the HFMA unveiled a new Introductory Certificate in Healthcare Finance. The certificate is aimed at non-finance professionals in the NHS, particularly general managers, nurse managers, practice managers and NEDs. It is also suitable for finance staff new to the NHS.
It aims to provide a basic understanding and awareness of fundamental aspects of NHS finance. As a qualification to provide a basic financial grounding for non-finance managers, it is a first. But it also stands out in its approach to studying.
Instead of requiring costly and time consuming classroom style training, the certificate can be studied and gained entirely through e-learning, supported by a range of associated distance learning texts. All students need is access to the internet or alternatively to their own organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS).

e-learning modules
The certificate is awarded for successful completion of five e-learning modules, an increasing library of which is being developed by the HFMA. At their own pace and at their own convenience, participants work their way through each module, which typically takes about one hour to complete. They then sit an on-line assessment test for each module.
The modules are also linked to the Agenda for Change Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) and provide much of the underpinning knowledge required for the framework’s Financial Management dimension at levels one and two.
Modules currently available include:

  • Introduction to NHS Finance in England
  • Introduction to Practice-Based Commissioning
  • Introduction to Managing Budgeting
  • Introduction to Payment by Results
  • Introduction to NHS Governance
  • Introduction to FT Finance.

Further modules are timetabled for release shortly including: Primary Care Finance; Business Cases; and Understanding the Accounts. Modules can be purchased separately, although the certificate can only be gained by completing five modules, one of which must include the Introduction to NHS Finance in England.

Content for target audiences
The modules’ content has been specifically written for the target audience, overseen by the HFMA’s professional committees, and has been extensively quality assured by working NHS finance practitioners. Where appropriate, modules have been piloted and users’ feedback accommodated within the final version.
The budgeting module was piloted at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Its finance director Neil Chapman says that a key benefit of the system, which is being used to train some 600 managers across seven sites, is that users can work at their own pace and test themselves: “Vital [to the empowerment of managers] is ensuring they get good information they can understand and can develop good financial management skills.”         

Cathy Kennedy, finance director of North East Lincolnshire Primary Care Trust says she is impressed with the PBC module. “It explains what PBC is about, what it can achieve and the practical issues for PCT staff, hospital trusts and practices in a way that is easy to access and understand,” she says. “I can thoroughly recommend it.”
In its review of the NHS financial management and accounting regime last year, the Audit Commission called for a structured training programme covering financial issues to be put in place for non-finance staff. The HFMA believes its e-learning modules and new Introductory Certificate in Healthcare Finance is a major step towards meeting this need.

For more information
For more details about HFMA e-learning modules or the Introductory Certificate in Healthcare Finance visit or contact Alison Myles on . Module prices start from £24 per individual user license (+VAT) 

Supplier Profiles

Rubrik UK Limited

Rubrik is a cybersecurity company, and our mission is to secure the world’s data.


Are you ever frustrated by people losing their keys for lockers, desk pedestals, filing cabinets,