CIPFA research finds positive support for crossing professional boundaries


In 2015, Future Focussed Finance commissioned the King’s Fund to develop a toolkit to support finance staff working with clinicians. The resulting toolkit Crossing Professional Boundaries was piloted by 24 organisations across the NHS and formally launched at the King’s Fund on 19 February. It explores four areas:

  1. the reasons why collaboration between finance and clinical staff matters
  2. the current levels of collaboration between finance and clinical staff
  3. the challenges to joint working across financial and clinical boundaries
  4. the factors that are needed to improve joint working between finance and clinical staff.

CIPFA’s Research team was commissioned to provide an independent evaluation of the pilots. The evaluation, which entailed 26 staff interviews, sought to understand how the toolkit had been utilised by the pilot organisations, the extent to which financial and clinical engagement had improved, and how the toolkit could be refined to maximise its effectiveness.

Dan Wake, Researcher in CIPFA’s Information Services Team, summarises the findings.

"The feedback was overwhelmingly positive from those who completed the exercise. Particular benefits included the facilitation of an open, honest forum to understand staff roles, share learning and improve collaborative working. For organisations that already had collaborative structures, the process allowed them to evaluate how effective these structures were, what teams were doing well, and what could be improved upon. For organisations that do not have a collaborative culture in place, it was felt that these processes would start a move towards that culture. Ultimately, the toolkit helped to develop feasible actions that would allow collaborative processes to continue beyond the pilot process.

"However, the pilot was not without its challenges, an example being the difficulty of organising meetings given conflicting staff commitments. The evaluation provided several recommendations, many of which came from the pilot organisations. It was important that examples of the toolkit’s application were highlighted, and these have been incorporated into the toolkit’s design. One of the key lessons was that there is no right or wrong way to use the toolkit, as it can be adapted to organisational needs."

Mark Ash, Finance Business Partner at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and a member of CIPFA’s health panel, took part in the pilot programme and spoke about his experience:

"For a number of years it has been noted that clinical and financial engagement is required but for some it was unclear how: the new toolkit helps you to finally achieve this.

"We knew that we had to have a ‘different’ conversation with clinicians rather than the normal discussion about financial positions and savings plans et al. Using the toolkit together quickly highlighted that we don’t really work together to deliver a shared objective and vision. We think we work collaboratively but actually the toolkit demonstrates that we don’t really, and the toolkit helps you to understand this and develop shared goals. However, it is vital that everybody finds and dedicates time to develop this ‘new’ team, and realises that to do this takes time and commitment. Financial and clinical colleagues find the coming together enlightening, but my tip would be that you need to make sure that the ongoing team meetings are used to deliver the agreed joint actions e.g. achieving value based healthcare."

The toolkit is now available for download on the Future Focused Finance website.

Download CIPFA's evaluation report.

Find out more about CIPFA Research.