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Edward John, Director of Operational Finance, Frimley Health NHS FT – Career Story

Career journey

Edward John is Director of Operational Finance at Frimley Health NHS FT. He started his finance career in the private sector with PwC in 1989 as a Trainee Accountant where he studied his ACA qualification – becoming a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1990.  After qualifying, Edward decided that it was a good point in his career to take time out to travel the world and visit the friends he had made at the University of East Anglia, where he studied Economics and Film Studies.  He travelled to Hong Kong, Mauritius and several countries across Europe for six months, which he said was an extremely enjoyable experience, “as I was able to see different places and learn about their cultures with locals.”

When he returned from his travels, Edward moved into the public sector to work for the Audit Commission, which he says he thought would just be a filler job whilst he thought about what he wanted to do long term. “An Audit Senior role came up which was just to cover annual leave for eight days, so I took this on and they ended up asking me to stay.” Not long after being taken on permanently, Edward was soon promoted to Senior Manager.  It was during this time that Edward’s interest in the NHS developed. “I was doing both local government work and work for the NHS, and the NHS really struck a chord with me,” Edward says. “I really enjoyed the work that was involved and the buzz and feel you get from working in a hospital environment.” Five years into working at the Audit Commission, Edward says that he started to think about his next move.  “My career kind of goes in five-year chunks. I get itchy feet. I didn’t really realise this until I looked back at my CV one day and noticed that it was almost in exactly five-year blocks. I think I have this natural propensity to move on and do something different every few years to keep my interests alive and find new challenges. It just comes about naturally for me and happened to be at that stage in time when the opportunity for the Deputy FD position came up at Heatherwood & Wexham Park Hospitals.” Edward decided to apply for the Deputy Finance Director role after being asked to by the then Director of Finance, who was a client of his at the Audit Commission. Edward says that it was the first time in his career that he had the opportunity to go into operational mainstream finance and that his NHS finance career really took off from there.

After taking on the deputy role, Edward also held the Director of Finance position and worked at the trust for a total of five years. “All the roles have been brilliant experience because I’d gone from “game keeper” to “poacher” as I had started off in audit and then I moved into an operational role – so it was very interesting going from one side and then immediately changing to the other. Not many people make that switch or transfer.”  Edward says that working at Wexham was during an exciting time, “as we were a high-flying trust and it was during the time where NHS trusts were moving to FTs and this offered me great leadership and role progression experience.”

Edward then decided that he wanted to something different and went into interim and contract work for around eight years. There he was focusing on transformation and restructuring work, including on a number of mergers and acquisitions, and he worked in all sectors of the NHS. He started off in an acute trust and then during this period he also worked for a mental health and ambulance trust, as well as a health authority and CCG. In 2012 Edward moved back to Heatherwood & Wexham, then in 2014 following acquisition by Frimley Park Hospital to form Frimley Health, Edward moved into his current role as Director of Operational Finance, which he says, “was a really good move as I was able to be a part of the first FT-to-FT acquisition, taking on the challenge and responsibility of bringing two finance teams together.” Edward says this was invaluable experience and a real highlight of his career.

Biggest influences in career

Edward says that he has worked with a diverse range of people within the NHS finance function which has been fantastic but also extremely valuable for his career development. “I’ve been pretty lucky to get along with everyone that I’ve worked with. I’ve also been supported really well throughout my career. In particular, during the period that I was doing contract and interim work, I was involved with lots of different organisations and worked with a variety of different FDs and CEOs. This was great because each one was different and had their particular strengths and weaknesses, and I was pulling from all that resource and experience and the different characteristics that each one had. From working with such a diverse range of leaders, I have gained a richer development experience.”

What next?

Edward has been in his current role for five years, however seems to be breaking his “itchy feet” routine. He says that he is really happy where he is and enjoys his current role because it is constantly changing, and he is involved in some  big, exciting projects – like the build of a brand-new hospital at the Heatherwood site. However, Edward is always looking for new challenges and to do something different within the role. He particularly enjoys being involved in the work that comes with any big changes in the NHS, such as within the newly formed Integrated Health Systems. “I’m always looking to broaden and expand the role to keep it interesting and develop myself further, and there are always opportunities to do so within the NHS.”

Involvement with Future-Focused Finance

Edward is very supportive of projects for Future-Focused Finance (FFF) and is currently Programme Lead for the Diversity workstream.  Edward says that he wanted to be a part of something bigger and broader than just mainstream finance, “and being involved in FFF and the diversity workstream offered me exactly that. FFF does some great work in developing both the individual, the finance function and its reputation, as a progressive and integral part of the NHS. Diversity in particular is a massively important issue for everyone and not just within the NHS, and being of BAME origin, I am delighted to be part of the positive change we are trying to create.”

Working in NHS Finance

Edward describes working in NHS finance as “the perfect place to be” for anyone that wants to work in an NHS environment but doesn’t particularly want to be on the front line. “If you don’t want to be a clinician but enjoy working with numbers and being a part of a support team, then accountancy in the NHS is the best of both worlds. For me it is really cool to be walking around a hospital every day, and being a part of an environment that is delivering health care, as you’re a part of that, even if indirectly.”

Edward says that working in NHS finance enables you to take on lots of interesting challenges and roles and that there is more than one route into the senior positions. “You can start wherever you like and move across. I started elsewhere, moved in and back out again, and so on. There’s so many opportunities that you can be involved in and it’s very different to anywhere else as you don’t have to follow one specific route to get to where you want to be.”

  • Favourite film – Castaway
  • Favourite book – To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Favourite television shows – Amazing Spaces
  • Favourite top three records (Desert Island Discs style) – anything by Marvin Gaye, Prince and George Michael
  • Favourite food – Indian