Just 40% of the 14,500 finance staff working in the NHS either have a financial qualification (NVQ, AAT or CCAB) or are studying for one. The draft strategy, published at the beginning of the year, called for this to increase to 70% by 2003 and 100% by 2005. More specifically it said 80% of staff with no professional or vocational qualification should be undertaking NVQ level 2 by 2003.
But the finalised finance staff development strategy just published by the Department of Health drops all reference to specific targets on qualifications. Instead it identifies a much more vague ‘wish to see an annual increase in the proportion of staff studying for qualifications’ and says that ‘everyone will have access to the level of training appropriate for his or her role’.
The department declined to comment on the changes although it is understood there was concern about adding to hundreds of targets already facing the service in implementing the NHS Plan. It is also believed to have decided on a more flexible route given the major structural upheaval facing the service including the demise of health authorities, to be replaced by 30 new strategic bodies, and the emergence of shared service centres running basic financial functions.
David Poynton, finance director of Birmingham Heartlands and Solihull NHS Trust and chairman of CIPFA’s health panel said the less prescriptive approach made sense. ‘So many targets have been put out and if you don’t hit them you are seen to fail. But the important thing is the speed you are moving towards them.’
However the finalised strategy firms up its line on the use of quality models such as the European Foundation Quality Model (EFQM) or ISO9002, saying that ‘accreditation will be expected to be achieved by all finance functions’.
With the NHS shared services initiative likely to see major finance staff reductions, the strategy stresses the importance of staff developing skills that are transferable outside of finance. But it also recognises the importance of providing financial training to non-financial managerial and clinical staff.
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