This is more than the usual ‘a day-in-the-life-of…’.
Andy Hill is one of our region's successful participants completing the Graduate Management Training Scheme. It is an open, honest and insightful story about how he has navigated the scheme, with helpful tips on what he discovered and what he found was useful. Andy is now in Strategic Finance at NHS England and NHS Improvement.
If you want to get a feel for what it is like to be on the Scheme or understand the shifting and changing world of being on the Scheme, read on.
Orientation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
One of my reflections of the finance scheme is that there can be limited opportunities to link work to the clinical side of care, with orientation being one of the best possible ways to get an insight into the clinical world. I felt lucky that mine arranged by Matthew Darlow at LTHT covered such a range of areas; I saw everything from open heart surgery to a mental health trust. I encourage future orientations to be as clinically focused as possible and for trainees to make the most of it as they’re unlikely to get a chance like that again.
Whilst on orientation I kept a note of names of those who hosted me and sent thank you emails at the end of orientation. I’d encourage everyone to do that to make sure that hosts are likely to help out again in future and to help trainees get a clinical buddy or contacts for our required study on the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme which contains clinical elements.
Placement 1: Financial Accounting at LTHT (9 months)
Having started the scheme with very limited financial knowledge, Financial Accounting was the perfect first placement for a really good grounding into the practicalities of NHS finances without needing specialist knowledge. The first 2 or 3 months on the scheme are busy with with orientation and educational days so having a task-based role was ideal.
Whilst at Leeds I had great exposure to the board and I benefited from LTHT having a history of hosting trainees – this organisational memory helped me to settle in as did having trainees from other specialisms (we still meet up for drinks after work).
If I was to go back in time and advise myself on what to do differently for a first placement I would do an Excel training course as early as possible – I didn’t do one whilst on the scheme (although have done some analytical training courses since leaving) and picked up Excel skills as I went through but having crash course in V-lookups, macros and pivot tables would have been beneficial.
Placement 2: Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (4 months)
I really enjoyed my second placement in Income at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust; it felt like the first time since joining the scheme I had ‘real’ responsibility. Due to the nature of the scheme it’s hard to take ownership of anything significant and maintain continuity for the team you’re working with - so this felt like an opportunity to provide some real value.
As I was covering a substantive post but with other scheme requirements unable to work full time in the office, I found it a difficult to balance feeling useful and being relied upon. CHFT and Audit Yorkshire also hosted me for my 2 month audit placement.
Placement 3: Management Accounts – Medicine at CHFT (5 months)
Over the course of the scheme this was my favourite placement. I think this is largely because it was the most clinically focussed area of my work and I really enjoyed engaging with clinical staff as part of the job. This placement was the point where everything seemed to start coming together in terms of my understanding of how finance and the operational aspects of the hospital align. It is also probably partly due to being more confident and competent as I progressed.
I think any future graduate programme plan must include a significant amount of time in a clinically focused area as it brings home the reason we work for the NHS and gives an appreciation of the work and the struggles other staff face. I would advise trainees to spend time in this placement going through budgets and financial reports with clinical budget holders to check each other’s understanding and to add value by offering to do some finance tutoring for budget holders and aspiring budget holders.
An example of where this placement changed my mindset was I looked over some income figures and regarded it as a bad thing that activity had decreased, after speaking to the clinical staff I realised it was actually good as less people are ill.
Flexi Placement: NHS England (2 months)
I enjoyed this placement enough to encourage me to accept a post-scheme job at NHS England! It’s important to see the NHS from a different perspective to acute care settings, and my flexi placement was a great opportunity to do this. I’ve been asked a few times since finishing the scheme if I have any advice for flexi placements and I’ve stuck to: Do something you wouldn’t otherwise get to do, or use it as a chance to trial a potential post-scheme job.
Final placement: Corporate Accounts at CHFT (4 months)
This was a fantastic final placement as it incorporated elements of everything I’d learnt throughout the scheme, mainly management accounts and financial accounting. Due to the Wholly Owned Subsidiary it also provided a lot of project work which I think is ideal for a trainee as it allows for responsibility, without being quite so time rigid as other areas of finance which tend to be cyclical. My wonderful line managers trusted me to get on with the work and were flexible with me and my required time out of the office on the educational elements of the scheme.
Andrew Hill, Assistant Pricing Development Manager (Strategic Finance), NHS England & NHS Improvement