Magazine article Public Finance

Caring and Sharing

Magazine article Public Finance

Caring and Sharing

Article excerpt

It is interesting to contrast the thrust of the Comment articles by Alan Edwards ('Getting fit for finance', October 5-11) and Steve Haines ('Share and share alike', October 26-November 1).

Edwards' message is visionary and outward-looking. He says the NHS finance function recognises that change is needed, but that 'lack of access to good management information, inefficient business processes and poor IT are major barriers' to progress.

Haines' view seems to be almost the opposite: There has to be a more simplified approach... it is more difficult to manage change in a large [centre].'

I believe that the acquisition, sharing and better use of knowledge is crucial in giving NHS finance directors strategic control of the modernisation of the finance function. That's where NHS Shared Business Services comes in. This is a joint venture set up two years ago between the NHS and Xansa, initially to offer financial, accounting and payroll services but in a position to push forward these changes.

The NHS is one of the most complex organisations in the world. Having hundreds of organisations, often working separately with limited opportunity for sharing knowledge and information, is an inefficient way of running our business. The IT platform used by SBS, which also benefits from a pre-paid NHS-wide licence, has been specifically adapted for the health service. It enables the sharing of best practice and knowledge and is fundamental in the collective improvements that can result from using shared services.

The opportunity this system offers makes it easier for the NHS finance function to rise to the challenge of the future. By joining SBS, NHS finance directors are joining a club that shares information, best practice and knowledge of the entire health service market. A single platform and common standards make change easier, not more difficult, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Joining SBS is much more strategic than simply securing 'back-office' cost savings. Customer finance directors comment that improvements in financial control have been immense and have allowed them to change cultures. They don't see it as an IT system but as an opportunity to improve efficiency, update technology and move the business forward.

The club approach is enabled by the fact that the NHS's share of profits will be passed back to customers as a dividend. A business that is part-owned by the trusts is motivated to act in the NHS's best interests.

Some of the major financial benefits of a shared services approach are those realised through e-procurement, allied to a fully integrated financial system. …

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