Sagar Shah

Graduate Management Trainee, London

Finance Scheme

11.45pm Saturday night, on an ambulance ride-out with paramedics. Seeing what they deal with was a huge eye-opening experience. What other finance scheme gives you that?

On my orientation, I was lucky enough to go on an ambulance ride-out. I’d just joined the NHS and was completely clueless about how things worked. I spent a 12-hour shift with colleagues from the London Ambulance Service, and many ambulance attendances during that night were alcohol-related. Seeing the paramedics’ commitment to caring for patients not in the right state of mind made me truly proud – and they still had a smile on their face at the end of the shift. It’s an experience that I’ll always remember.

I always wanted to work for a public sector organisation, so why not the biggest?

The scheme has a reputation for being one of the best, and has produced senior managers for decades. I wanted to be part of this group, and felt it would give me the right jumpstart and the hands-on responsibility I was looking for. I wanted to experience how the finance function provides tools for clinicians to do what they do best, and from there, introduce my own initiatives. Most importantly, I wanted to help improve patient outcomes.

I’ve experienced just about every facet of NHS finance.

There are three placements on the finance scheme. At the moment I’m thoroughly enjoying working in business partnering, which is one of three divisions within Imperial’s finance department. We support frontline services and divisions. I’m currently helping with urology and their SLRs (service line reporting), drilling down information to patient-level. I have sole responsibility for all of this so my work has to be very accurate to inform key decisions.

This affects the wider NHS as our figures are reported for benchmarking purposes. Other Trusts and organisations can see what margins we are working to, and how it is derived. This shares best practice amongst the health economy so that income is maximised whilst minimising cost.

I’ve been given real responsibility from the get-go.

So far I’ve identified significant income being underreported, and worked closely with clinicians, information and clinical coding to solve this. Alongside my day-to-day role, I’m working towards a CIMA qualification and have passed the Mary Seacole Programme. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and a massive learning gap to overcome, but now I feel like I’m making a genuine difference at work. And I’m allowed to produce work in a format that feels right.

This scheme is not for the faint-hearted.

It is a fast-track leadership scheme, and you’ll have to juggle a lot of conflicting priorities. And in fact, it’s no different to what NHS managers do on a daily basis. You won’t always know what to do, but this will encourage you to speak to your colleagues, and build relationships with various stakeholders so you can do your job. There will be a mixture of working alone, in a small team or even across a whole service or division. The possibilities are endless.

The NHS does feel like one big family – colleagues have been more than supportive.

Everyone is aware of what it takes to support a management trainee. It’s really important to have a good support network around you at all levels throughout the scheme, whether it’s fellow trainees, colleagues, senior managers or even someone independent to the NHS. It will all help in the good times and bad. And don’t be scared to ask questions! I can’t emphasise this enough – if you knew everything, why apply for this scheme? Learning and development should never stop.