Survey reveals just 2% of NHS clinicians and managers own forecasting processes

NHS Clinicians and administrators are still heavily reliant on finance managers to control budget and forecasting processes, according to a survey of more than 230 NHS finance professionals by Advanced Business Solutions (Advanced). The figures come one year after the launch of the Future Focused Finance (FFF)* scheme which aims to devolve responsibility of financial planning to budget holders.

The survey found that 80% of forecasting processes are still owned by finance managers, with senior and business managers accounting for 7% each, operations 4% and clinicians just 2%. The results also revealed that 53% of organisations are actively engaged with the FFF initiative.

The scheme was launched in February 2014 to help reduce the deficit which in 2014-15 reached £822 million. This is a rise of 614% from the previousyear.** The aim of the initiative is to capture and share finance best practice and encourage collaboration between finance and operational managers to plug the funding gap. One of the key recommendations is that responsibility and accountability for budgeting and forecasting is devolved to budget holders and those doing the spending.

Dean Dickinson, Managing Director, Advanced Business Solutions (Public Sector & Enterprise Division), says, “The FFF initiative empowers operational managers to take control of their budgets. Only once these key influencers have clear visibility of their spending, and the impact this has on budget consumption, will purchasing and spending behaviour really begin to change in the NHS.

“With greater insight into the impact of their spending and easier access to accurate, real-time information, stakeholders will be best placed to take an active role in the financial management of their organisation.”

According to Advanced’s survey, the main challenge businesses face in achieving this business partnering was lack of time and resources (33%), followed by lack of ownership (23%), stakeholder engagement (22%), unsuitable IT systems (14%) and capability (7%).

Finance management software is one of the important enablers of this shift towards partnering, taking data from live business systems, such as HR and payroll, to support non-finance managers in real-time decision making. Forward-thinking Trusts that have recognised this and implemented budgeting and forecasting solutions are already realising the benefits.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust began using Advanced’s Collaborative Planning in 2012 after identifying a £35 million deficit five months into its 2011-2012 financial year. For the financial year 2013/14, the Trust delivered a £15m surplus. Other public sector bodies are also making savings by working in this way. Cheshire West and Chester Council saved £1 million in efficiencies within a year of implementing Collaborative Planning.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, Trusts have started taking the right steps towards a collaborative financial planning approach,” Dickinson continues “ We are seeing more and more Trusts investing in budgeting and forecasting software, to support them on this path.”

The survey was conducted as part of a webinar which was co-hosted by Advanced Business Solutions and EY*** for the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). The webinar attracted almost 600 NHS finance professionals.

Sunny Sanghera, Senior Manager, EY, says, “Organisations need clear guidance on what events can trigger changes to their original budgets. Forecasting should then be used to provide the most up-to-date view of the plan, enabling direct and accurate comparisons to give an up-to-date view of the financial picture.”


*The FFF was launched by the DoH, HFMA, Monitor, NHS England, Health Education England and the TDA


***EY – formerly Ernst & Youn