Tahmid Ahmed started his current role as a financial planning analyst at NHS England in July 2021, his first position after completing the three-year NHS graduate management training scheme. He is part of the team whose responsibilities include the allocation of financial applications from HM Treasury to the NHS, distributing funds and actioning transfers across clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and NHS regions around the country. The scope of his work also covers areas such as reviewing business cases and financial planning submissions from trusts, providers and CCGs.
He applied for a place on the NHS graduate management training scheme after gaining a first-class honours degree in Accounting and Financial Information Systems from the University of Greenwich, London. As part of his degree course, Tahmid spent a year on placement within the NHS.
Over the course of his NHS graduate training, he gained a wide range of experience through placements at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow and the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT). Having studied for his CIPFA accounting qualifications as part of the scheme, Tahmid completed his final exams in September 2021.
When did you first become attracted to a career in the public sector, and particularly public sector finance?
It was during my university course, when I decided to take a placement year. I've always known that I wanted my career to be focused around helping others within the community and contributing to society. I successfully interviewed for a place as a junior management accountant at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. During my time there, I worked with numerous colleagues who were very much focused on patient care and providing the best service they could to patients, families and their local communities, which I found really inspiring. From then on, I knew I wanted to work within the sector based on what I had seen, and I also realised for the first time the change you can make from within the finance profession.
What do you enjoy most about working in your sector?
One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing how much positive impact your work can have on the lives of patients and their families. I've had the opportunity to work on some inspiring transformations within the NHS. As part of the graduate scheme, I was able to work for NHSX, the digital transformation enabler within the NHS, as a project officer in the digital innovation team. Over those two months, I had the opportunity to work on a multi-million-pound monitoring business case to help COVID-19 patients monitor their conditions remotely at home rather than coming to hospital.
I also enjoy working with committed and dedicated people who are focused on the same values as me, aligned around offering great patient care, supporting the service and working effectively with colleagues. Another benefit of working for the NHS is that you can be a real leader and enabler for change and not just on local issues, but global issues too, because of the sheer scale of the organisation. For example, the way it is driving forward on net zero carbon targets with Greener NHS, the way it can lead on addressing health inequalities shown during the pandemic, and the way it can implement equality, diversity and inclusion projects to help tackle the wider inequalities in society.
What have been the highlights or biggest successes of your career to date? Are there any particular standout, pivotal moments?
There have been quite a few achievements – for example, working on some big transformations within hospital departments – but the main achievement so far was my redeployment during the pandemic, when I was moved into PPE procurement and distribution. Within a very short timescale, around a week, we had set up a distribution network for 41 sites across four different counties that didn't exist before the pandemic. PPE hadn't been a major supply chain environment, but then within a few weeks it became central. It involved hard work and some very long hours, but we were able to set up a system to monitor PPE and ensure supply across the whole network within our trust, while also supporting the region. That was something I look back on with pride.
Another achievement that I'm proud of is my time at NHSX within the innovation team, where I worked with some inspiring small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are focused on health tech and digital intervention within healthcare. I was able to work with those SMEs and streamline their innovations to the right departments at NHSX or the wider NHS network. At the time, it was focused on COVID-19, but it shows how we can fast-track technological innovation to help support the frontline or to help support patients.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing public finance professionals of the future?
The biggest challenge for the NHS is the recovery from COVID-19, which has taken its toll on a large amount of elective activity and created an enormous waiting list that we've not really seen before in terms of people waiting for surgery. Recovering from that will be a challenge, and it will take a lot of innovation and financial backing, but also different ways of thinking about how we deliver health and how we deliver care to people.
There's a large-scale staffing shortage as well. Many frontline staff have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we are probably going to see some leave. We already have recruitment vacancies, so the challenge is how you find people to fill these roles and deliver the care that people deserve.
Inequalities in healthcare, particularly within the NHS, is something that the pandemic has highlighted too, so I think programmes need to be set up to deliver healthcare in a more equal manner, to support healthcare among communities where we've not really had the focus before. Lastly, the pandemic has shown us we can use technology in a positive manner to deliver care. AI in healthcare is something that we're moving towards, and I think tech and digital transformation will be a massive part of the NHS's long-term plan.
Why did you choose a CIPFA accounting qualification?
It was part of the NHS graduate management training scheme, but I chose the CIPFA qualification because it's tailored to a public sector finance professional. I also find CIPFA's values are very much aligned to what I believe in and what I strive to work for within the NHS, values such as integrity, confidentiality and objectivity, which any public sector finance professional should adhere to.
What is your advice to people considering a CIPFA accounting qualification?
I'd say go for it. It's not easy, you will have to put time and effort towards achieving it, but it is a hugely rewarding qualification that opens doors not just to finance but many different career paths. You become a public finance professional with many skillsets across different areas. Having that CPFA designation alongside your name also opens doors career-wise, and is it something that you can look back on and be proud of what you've achieved.
How has being a student member supported you in your current role?
Many of the topics that we study in our CIPFA quantification are very much applicable to my role as a finance professional within the NHS. For example, one of our modules is Public Sector Financial Reporting, where we learn about how to set up accounts for several different public sector bodies, NHS central government, local government, and so on, and that really helped me when I was finalising the accounts during my time at HPFT. Also, in Financial Management, we learned about investment appraisals, and I use my learning from CIPFA on the investment appraisals to provide support on the monitoring business case for NHSX.
Also, as a member, the subscription you get to Public Finance keeps you informed about current issues in the public sector and helps you gain a broader perspective, which can not only help inform decisions within your organisation but also facilitate collaboration and integration with other public sector bodies.
What book/film/podcast would you recommend to anyone working in public finance?
One book I would recommend is Being an NHS Chief Executive, What They Never Told Me by a now-retired chief exec, Lisa Rodrigues. It is an honest, eye-opening account of the life of a chief executive in the NHS. She discusses the rewards but also the challenges of operating at that level and what impacts it might have both professionally and personally. I think that would be a great read for anyone who works within the NHS or public sector in general.
Another book is Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, which encourages leaders of the future with motivational techniques and how to understand your own leadership style, taking ownership of it going forward. It's a book that has really helped me understand how I want to lead in the future and what sort of leader I am.