Q&A with Mark Orchard
Why choose a finance career in the NHS?
I would encourage anyone wishing to pursue a career in finance to consider joining the NHS. The sheer variety of opportunities is immense, and much broader than many equivalent roles within traditional accountancy bodies. The support on offer to assist with the experience needed, alongside gaining the exam qualifications, as well as the salary potential during and post qualification, would be hard to beat. Within the NHS in particular, we have invested so much over recent years to give new starters and trainees the best possible experience. Please take a look at opportunities at your local NHS organisation or by contacting the Healthcare Financial Management Association (weblink) who will be able to direct you to potential entry points.
What distinguishes a finance career in the NHS from other sectors or institutions?
Above all else the thing that distinguishes the NHS from other sectors or institutions is the sense of public duty, whilst at the very same time providing every opportunity for individuals to grow, develop and excel alongside their exam and work place experience development. The pandemic has really demonstrated to me that sense of pride in all that we do – and I see that at all levels and across all roles within the finance department here at Portsmouth Hospitals. At times, some members of our finance department have been involved in volunteering to feed patients, to support the rollout-out of staff asymptomatic Covid-19 screening tests and so much more.
How does NHS finance impact and support the frontline of the service?
The finance department within any hospital or NHS setting is part of the whole team, and there to support the running of frontline services with every much importance as the clinicians who interface directly with patients. Our role is to support the sustained running of services by making sure that instead of finance becoming a block that we are an enabler to service improvement as well as business continuity.
Can you describe the career path and options for NHS finance staff?
There is no single career path for NHS finance staff – and perhaps that is why I would most strongly suggest choosing an NHS finance career above all other sectors. The variety of entry routes range from school leavers, apprenticeships, graduate trainees to mature learners. We really can cater for all. And once established as part of a local team the pathway to promotion and a fulfilling career is only limited by ambition and what fits best for the individual.
I joined the NHS in 1998 after serving the first part of my traineeship with a small accountancy firm studying ACCA. Whilst I will always look back with fond memories on my private sector experience, I cannot tell you how fulfilling my roles have been at every step of the way to my current chief financial officer role at Portsmouth Hospitals. I have been part of some great teams, and also led some exceptional teams too. At times I have specialised in PFI and capital developments, broadened my role into audit as well as enjoyed working across health and care systems as much as being in operational command as Gold Commander. I could not be more proud of the NHS and would highly commend a career within the service to anyone wishing to having a fulfilled career in finance.