Reflections on the HFMA WM 2020 Virtual Conference

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This year’s HFMA West Midlands Branch Conference, “Festival of Finance”, took place just over a two weeks ago now – and for the 500 plus delegates that attended I am sure they would agree it was a great success. As a HFMA Branch committee member, I’m very proud to have played a small part in hosting this event.

Kevin Stringer, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer introducing Dr Clara Day, Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospital Birmingham NHS FT onto the Hopin Main Stage for a Session titled – Outpatient Transformation and System Working in Response to Recovery.

This year’s conference was a little different from previous years, for obvious reasons – which meant the brave decision had to be made not to postpone the event, but to venture online. The platform of choice was HOPIN, –a fully immersive and interactive digital experience which live-streamed content from the main stage to host speakers. I am biased, but this was a significant improvement from Zoom / MS Teams and other platforms currently in circulation.

The speaker line was diverse in subject matter, but also carried themes of

  • COVID-19 (which is not a surprise)
  • Leadership – System by Default
  • Diversity and Inclusion

I am not entirely sure if this was by design or coincidence; still, the blend certainly gave the audience plenty to think about and was a far cry from the technical accounting adjustments tutorials I’ve seen in the past.

Our very own Paul Sly delivered a session on “System Leadership in a Post COVID world”. Despite being in the middle of pandemic response, there was a general agreement that the “command and control” style of leadership which was in operation earlier in the year, only works for the short term. The requirement now must be to move to a more System by Default approach, where distributed leadership and empowerment of place-based working is encouraged.

Dinah Mclannahan, Chief Finance Officer for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital, delivered an open and compassionate session of how her Trust managed throughout the early stages of the pandemic. Covering the intricate management of PPE and supplies and the importance of personal accountability, kindness and giving recognition to the many staff who went above and beyond, one, in particular, being Dr Sarb Clare MBE ED and Acute Medicine Consultant.

Paul Brown, Director of Finance Stoke-on-Trent CCG and Dr Shammy Noor, Chair of CCG (SE Staffordshire) presented a session titled “System recovery and the role primary care networks can play”. Showcasing how, although PCNs are at the start of their journey, they will be an integral part of helping health systems deliver on the many challenges they are currently facing.

Matthew Jordan-Boyd, Director of Finance, NHS Counter Fraud Authority, delivered an informative and eye-opening presentation on the level of fraud affecting the NHS. Sadly, we know that criminals will take advantage where vulnerabilities exist, but it was interesting to hear the work being undertaken both nationally and locally to tackle fraud in the NHS.

The pinnacle session for me was “Building Career Resilience” a conversation between Claire Merrick, Executive Coach and Dr Bola Owolabi, National Specialty Advisor for Older People. All too often we hear there is only one way to reach the top of the “Career Ladder”; however it was refreshing to hear that the scenic route can be both rewarding and satisfying in achieving professional and personal goals.

My key conference take aways were:

  • As we adjust and adapt to new ways of working the presence of the HFMA at a local level and the ability and capacity to share ideas between organisations is needed now more than ever
  • The transition of CCGs/ STPs ICS leadership is at the forefront of all decision making. This is not just leadership at Board Level but at all levels
  • Diversity and Inclusion – the dialogue was enlightening, refreshing and honest, but there’s clearly more work to do!

Overall, it was a big congratulations to Rob Pickup who chaired the branch committee in what can only be described as an extraordinary year, and whose vision came to light over the five days of the conference. This could not have been done without the support of the HFMA central team (Fleur Sylvester) and many of the other committee members. Speaking on behalf of Clarity Consulting, it was a pleasure to support this event, and I look forward to future events to being scheduled. One thing I can be sure of – no online platform can replicate the energy, atmosphere in the room of a face to face conference, but I believe online platforms such as Hopin do have their own advantages and are very much here to stay.

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