NHS Shared Business Services
Stephen Sutcliffe's journey in the healthcare finance sector is an interesting one…
A graduate finance trainee with a “clear career objective”, he became a finance leader at a young age.
His career continued to develop, and he’s now a driving force in revolutionising the financial landscape of the National Health Service - better known to many as the NHS.
In an exclusive interview for The Shift, our senior finance leader interview series, Sutcliffe shared insights into his career, his passion for digital transformation and the challenges that have shaped his outlook.
Sutcliffe had two choices as a graduate: Tetley’s brewery scheme and the NHS.
“For some reason, I turned down beer for the NHS all those years ago!”
It was a good decision, as Sutcliffe gained experience across northwest England within various NHS organisations before achieving his career goal quite rapidly.
"I became a Director of Finance in the NHS at a relatively young age, and I thought I’d achieved my life ambitions - but I started to ask ‘what’s next?’"
Well, next was a transition into his role at NHS Shared Business Services
“8 years ago, a position came up at NHS Shared Business Services - which I was previously a client of.”
“Rather than throwing stones at my shared service provider, I thought I'd join and hopefully make a difference.”
Transformation became both a professional and personal passion for Sutcliffe.
He sees the benefits of transformation in his own personal life, and has a very clear view on its organisational influence:
“It's just phenomenal a game changer for NHS finance.”
Transformation is a way to make the lives of the one and a half million people who work in the NHS a little bit easier. By automating routine tasks, healthcare workers can focus on what truly matters – patient care.
“Transformation releases human beings to do what humans are great at, which is caring and using their brain to add value.”
Under Sutcliffe's leadership, a lot of transformation projects have happened since 2016.
“We did a lot of work in robotic process automation, introduced around 100 robots that have saved around 500,000 people hours, which we've either been able to retrain and rescale or to pass those benefits on to our client base.”
Now he is focused on the integration of cutting-edge technologies like the next generation of Oracle and Salesforce - the organisation is making significant strides.
“The ability to automate processes and strengthen that new technology through automation brings a way better user experience.”
This UX is important, as Sutcliffe notes: “the majority of my users are not finance professionals. They're doctors and nurses that don't like finance.”
That’s why he states that there's a real focus on user experience, and not just automating for the sake of automating.
While the journey has been marked by progress, Sutcliffe is candid about the challenges the healthcare finance sector faces.
"Workload pressures are monotonous," he acknowledged.
“There’s no breathing room like there was when I was younger. I think working from home and COVID has led to never feeling like you aren’t working.”
He notes that recruitment has become more difficult, adding to the strain healthcare professionals are under - not to mention the influence of today’s landscape, from cost of living to waiting times.
"The pressure feels immense at the moment," he admits.
Aside from freeing up people across the organisation, Sutcliffe's personal motivations to continue improving things are intertwined with his personal relationships.
He says that he has two reasons to get up and drive change at the NHS each morning.
“One is that I'm really close to my mum. She’s not well at the moment, and is having the NHS experience. My second reason is my stepson who has an acquired brain injury, who’s had many experiences with the NHS.”
“They are my personal reason to ask ‘what can I bring to make their lives better when they experience the NHS?’.”
“My skill base happens to be financial and analytical in nature, but I get up each morning to make sure that when they need NHS care I can do my bit to help that.”
It’s also important to Sutcliffe from a finance perspective.
“I want to make a real impact, improve life for finance professionals so they can do what they want to do. Most people I speak to, whether it's in the NHS or any industry, want to help the business improve, grow and make decisions that achieve their strategic capital.”
Sutcliffe’s standout moments in finance at NHS reflect his passion:
“When we relocated chemotherapy services back from a centralised cancer hub into a local hub, and when we built the largest health centres and shifted patients out of hospitals.”
“The direct impact of that improvement in patient care… that's why I want to free up finance professionals' time, so we can make that impact.”
If you would like to hear Sutcliffe's story live, join our senior finance event in Leeds in October! Find more details here.
"I'm huge on sports. As a kid, I was a Liverpool football fan, so Kenny Dalglish was a real hero for me. Another one is a guy called Adam Walker. I do open water swimming and Adam swam seven channels. He's done amazing things; what inspires me is not just his physical ability, but his mindset. I'm interested in how the mind is really strong, and how you can achieve amazing things. Adam talks about a time when he was being stung by jellyfish and just didn’t want to be in the cold waters of the English channel. So, he imagines he’s swimming in the Bahamas - the ability to shift his mind like that is why he inspires me."
"Music is mood driven for me. I like to immerse in different sounds and hear new music; my family and I go to the Isle of Wight Festival. I really like classical music too, like a bit of Mozart when I'm driving - but, if it has to be one, it’s the Beatles. They've got such a range - they go from the top of the early 60s to the deeper stuff of the late 60s, early 70s. I adore them, they have various genres of music that I can enjoy at different phases."
Become a member of GENCFO to start connecting.