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We treasure the NHS in the UK. It is our jewel in the crown of our welfare state and it has shone so brightly in the past 18 months. In this respect, we are told that we are the envy of many countries around the world.

The bit of the NHS that is visible to us all are the frontline staff and individuals who continue to go above and beyond to keep us safe. However, they would not be able to deliver this exceptional service without a great team behind them.

Step forward the NHS Shared Business Services

NHS SBS, as they are known, are the biggest finance department in the NHS – providing services to over 230 different NHS organisations around the country. The resilience of the NHS SBS Finance & Accounting (F&A) team has been tested to the extreme by the Covid-19 pandemic. They have dealt with setting up home working, a coinciding huge increase in demand for their services and the need to onshore a large number of roles. If this was not enough, there was also a significant and long planned NHS merger programme taking place.

Fortunately, the F&A team had already made great progress pre-pandemic in improving the speed and accuracy of financial processing, whilst ensuring capacity and business resilience. This was achieved by an F&A business strategy focused on a commitment to invest in people and technology to deliver a digital, touch-less, on-demand service.

See NHS SBS presentation at Generation CFO Live: Watch replay!

This meant the F&A team was better placed than many to deal with the challenges of Covid-19 on behalf of the NHS. The investment in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), for instance, ensured that many repetitive financial processes were carried out by robots, and therefore not affected by office closures and reduced availability of manual resource. When the pandemic hit, the team also worked hard to further improve processes to enable quicker payment of suppliers, which was critical as countries fought so secure PPE.

GenCFO Digital Finance Function Award Winner

At a time of national crisis, providing essential financial services to the NHS has been more important than ever before. Whilst adapting to entirely new ways of working, the NHS SBS F&A team has worked tirelessly in difficult circumstances to deploy a mix of people and technology excellence, helping to keep the NHS running smoothly and support colleagues on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19.

The F&A team has gone above and beyond to ensure NHS colleagues have been able to focus on the clinical response to the pandemic, without being distracted by additional problems away from the frontline. This is the reason why GenerationCFO awarded NHS SBS F&A our Team of the Year for 2020. They have shown they are prepared to invest people and technology and put this into practice to great effect.

We will be talking with Stephen Sutcliffe, NHS SBS Director of Finance & Accounting on 27 April – register here.