We examine the role of a head of finance – healthcare contracts, the skills required, how to get into the specialism and where it can take you in your career
This article was first published in the July/August 2020 China edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has changed the financial management landscape,’ says David Mutori FCCA. This is the view from the sharp end of the crisis: Mutori is head of finance – healthcare contracts at NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group in the UK.
As national guidance on Covid-19 changes, so too does the underpinning financial management framework. This is where the role of the public sector finance head truly comes into its own, stepping up to provide clarity, guidance and leadership across the organisation.
The healthcare contracts finance head is a multidisciplined and challenging role, varying significantly between service providers and countries. They can oversee finance teams responsible for reporting clinical income and advising clinical teams of their financial positions, while ensuring income opportunities are maximised and providing advice for a broad spectrum of interdepartmental stakeholders. They also have to negotiate, agree, monitor and ensure the efficient delivery of high-value contracts, as well as advising the organisation on current and future financial implications of changes to legislation, national guidance, volumes, prices and so on to support planning.
Mutori works within a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in the National Health Service (NHS), which is effectively a commissioner of healthcare. He compares his role to managing the finance department of an organisation that buys hundreds or thousands of product lines, but with the only difference being that in NHS commissioning, he deals with service lines. These are the units from which the services for a trust (a unit of NHS provision) are delivered, each with their own focus on particular medical conditions or procedures and their own specialist clinicians.
Aside from financial management expertise, proven business acumen and the ability to negotiate best price and deliver income gains, adaptability is vital, alongside dealing with a complex operating framework. Also essential are solid stakeholder management skills and the ability to communicate with non-financial professionals.
Getting in and getting on
There are a wide range of highly rewarding finance career options in healthcare, with the sector known for welcoming professionals from ‘outside’, be that from different industries or from parts of the world. Mutori, for instance, grew up in Zimbabwe but gained all his healthcare experience in the NHS.
‘Having NHS experience gives you a bit of an advantage when applying for jobs in the sector,’ he says. ‘I worked as a contractor for many years, which gave me wide sector experience. This diversity was a crucial factor for me getting my current role.’
With the exposure to the ‘whole business’ that finance professionals garner, careers can extend beyond the finance function. ‘There are opportunities to move sideways into commissioning, policy and strategy,’ says Mutori. ‘You can easily move into other service sector roles. My ambition is to move into policy and strategy one day – I like shaping up things.’
Neil Johnson, journalist