In conversation with:


Bob Alexander, Deputy Chief Executive / Executive Director of Resources, NHS Improvement

What does your job involve?

Bob AlexanderWe’re going through a realigning change in the NHS whereby the Trust Development Authority (TDA) and Monitor are coming together under a leadership umbrella called ‘NHS Improvement’. At the moment we’re working through what that leadership looks like across both organisations. Having been the substantive Finance Director of the TDA where I was responsible for the financials of any provider Trust that hadn't achieved FT status, I then stepped up to the Chief Executive role to provide continuity of leadership when David Flory left at the end of March 2015. 

Since the Autumn I've been Deputy Chief Executive of the TDA - running the shop while we plan what NHS improvement looks like. My role at the moment is still senior managerial both from a corporate and financial perspective but we are all in transition – as part of which I've just been appointed Executive Director of Resources and one of the two Deputy Chief Executives of NHS Improvement.

How important is financial training?

Very! And I have supported it in every place I've worked - and I haven’t just worked in the NHS. I think it’s at two levels. Firstly, there is something about ensuring that finance staff have the best skills and capabilities to do what the job requires them to do. Then I think there is something about ensuring that those people who have got the responsibility for the use of resources understand sufficiently the implications of how they deploy them. 

It feels to me that finance staff training builds professionalism and awareness. That's one of the reasons, certainly in health, why I thought it was the right thing to do for the major finance leaders of the sectors that we now have in the NHS to come together as a concordat to build the Future Focused Finance programme. It is trying to address all those things - getting capability, skill and understanding. 

What is your proudest professional moment?

The thing I'm proudest of, in the last 20 years of my career, is that that I've been privileged to be invited to work for and with some of the best people. I've been spectacularly lucky of course but I'm quite proud of that because I interpret that as ‘I must doing something right’ - there is an element of personal professional pride. I also think some of it is a function of being proud to be associated with those good people. 

I value those associations with those people who are recognised either managerially or as finance leaders, and will hold on to that throughout my entire career rather than saying ‘I'm really glad I did something particularly good’ at a certain time. I think it’s that longitudinal involvement with really good people at all sorts of levels and in different sectors – I've been incredibly fortunate.

What would you say could help you do your job better?

My current job is fundamentally about trying to help NHS providers develop financially stable organisations. Some of the conversations we’re having with some of the other national bodies are about doing proper joined up planning and review of health systems - I think if we get it right this will help people like me do our jobs. It will empower us to look across health systems rather than merely focus on individual organisations - that does give you a different perspective. 

At times of financial constraint, at times of significant public demand for services and a regulatory drive to make those services as safe and of the highest quality they can be, taking a system perspective is a better approach than just a purely organisational perspective.