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The secret NHS finance manager



Shortly before Christmas a Guardian journalist contacted me to ask if I would be interested in contributing to a series of anonymous diaries written by National Health Service workers that would aim to provide an insight into life in the NHS at this crucial juncture in its sixty eight year history. The idea was to write a brief diary picking out some of the highs and lows of the working week with the diaries forming part of a wider month-long series that the Guardian has just completed called This Is The NHS. You may have seen some of it. If not, it’s worth checking out online. Through an assortment of interviews, articles, videos and secret diaries the series has provided a fascinating, perhaps unprecedented, glimpse of life on the NHS frontline and the Guardian has described it as one of their “biggest journalistic projects” involving more than seventy journalists and totalling 150 articles.

The secret diaries were often sad, sometimes funny, sometimes angry and frustrated, but always imbued with the warmth, kindness and compassion that is the hallmark of our NHS. They included contributions from a surgeon, a junior doctor, a pharmacist, an A&E nurse, a paramedic, a clinical psychologist, a speech and language therapist and a rapid response worker amongst others. A timely reminder of the sheer size of the NHS (employing 1.6 million staff) and the breadth of services that it offers. And a reminder too that aside from the headline making cutting edge technology and life saving drugs the health service is essentially about people looking after people. In an age where seemingly everything comes at a price and must demonstrate its profitability it feels remarkable that if any of us have the misfortune to fall ill or have an accident that there are people who will care for us, and attempt to make us better, without asking for our credit card details. It truly is a creation that we should be proud of, perhaps our finest achievement as a nation.

But, infuriatingly, the NHS is under threat from those who would have us believe that it is unaffordable, who would rather spend money on weapons to kill people than invest in caring for people. The current disputes regarding junior doctors’ contracts and bursaries for student nurses are merely the latest examples of horrendous penny pinching. What is often overlooked in the astonishing short-termism of the wider political debate is that the NHS is crucial to our economy; without a healthy workforce a healthy economy is impossible. Far from the NHS being unaffordable, we cannot afford to be without it and we must fight to preserve our health service so that the children of today will also benefit from its warmth and kindness and compassion for many years to come.

Anyway, on page 9 of last Tuesday’s Guardian was a piece by a “secret finance manager” (there’s a link to it here; the secret finance manager’s diary). It represents my own very small contribution to the wonderful This Is The NHS series. I don’t work on the “frontline” treating patients but I joined the NHS as a finance trainee nearly twenty five years ago because I believed, and still do, very strongly in its public service ethos. I’m prouder than ever to say that I work for the NHS and that in helping to keep the financial cogs of this huge organisation turning I’m also making my own contribution to the care of patients by providing the doctors, nurses, therapists and the rest of those hard pressed staff on the frontline with the time, information and resources to care. Patients, not profits, should be at the forefront of everything that we as finance staff do too. Six hundred words isn’t a lot to condense the working week into but I hope that this piece at least provides a glimpse into some of the pressures and frustrations that many NHS finance staff currently feel, particularly in working within the confines of the monstrous “internal market”. It feels a little odd seeing something that I started scribbling on a tube journey home one evening in the pages of a national newspaper. Thanks to the Guardian for giving me the opportunity to contribute.


From → NHS

One Comment
  1. Sharon permalink

    Another excellent piece of insight S

    Sent from my iPhone


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