A diverse and inclusive finance function leads to better care for patients and a better place to work. It results in improved management of resources, greater innovation and more effective decision-making. Finding ways to improve diversity is important, while inclusivity is the key to maintaining diversity in the workplace.

The importance of diversity and inclusion is reaffirmed in the recently published Interim NHS people plan (the Plan), which states that the NHS must recognise its shortcomings in this area. Diversity and inclusion are essential in delivering each of the six themes set out in the plan. The plan looks at the importance of not just championing ideas, but how to advance inclusion and diversity, emphasising the critical capability of ‘inclusive and compassionate leadership, so that all staff are listened to, understood and supported, and so that leaders at every level of the health system demonstrably reflect the talents and diversity of people working in health and care services and the communities they serve’.

Personal and collective commitment and action are essential in driving change. As Emma Knowles, HFMA director of policy and research writes:

‘True diversity and inclusion in the NHS finance function will be a journey. As with society in general, there is no magic spell that can eliminate years of learned behaviours, discrimination and prejudice.’ HFMA, Voyage of discovery, July 2019

Future-Focused Finance (FFF) and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) are committed to supporting diversity and inclusion.

FFF launched their diversity work programme in 2018, with the underlying aim of achieving equality of opportunity. Recognising the importance of finance teams identifying, nurturing and supporting talented individuals from all backgrounds, a key aspect of the diversity workstream supports and enhances the careers of finance colleagues with protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act 2010. The programme was based on recommendations that came out of two FFF safe house discussions focusing on gender and ethnicity and includes a diversity delivery group which has helped to set key performance indicators and ambitions for the programme.

Exhibit 1: FFF diversity programme key themes

  • challenging behaviours and changing culture
  • access to and greater visibility of role models and mentors
  • establishing networks for protected groups
  • continued communication and profile via a regular series of events and workshops
  • sharing good practice on flexible working
  • working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to embed a positive accountability framework
  • influencing a change in recruitment processes to ensure inclusivity and equal opportunity
  • ownership at top level within organisations via finance director networks and accreditation processes
  • marketing and communications.

As part of their work programme, FFF held a diversity forum in July 2019, which explored the practical actions that can make a difference and drive positive change. Delegates from the day shared their thoughts on the sessions and how they can make a difference – click on the individuals names to watch the interviews of Katherine Archer, Mike Burns and Sunday Adeniyi. As Hayley Ringrose from Stockport NHS Foundation Trust said at the event, ‘this is where we need to get to - where all NHS finance staff are judged and promoted just on their expertise and the quality of their work.’

Building on the forum, this report sets out: why diversity and inclusion are important; considers the current position; and suggests what actions can be taken to make a difference.