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Longevity and career progression within the NHS – a Q&A with Scott Jarvis

by Adam Rouse | 18 December 2019

The NHS is renowned across the globe for its workforce, and the career opportunities on offer across the organisation are endless. From clinical roles to office jobs, the NHS can offer ambitious talent a wealth of opportunities and rewards employees with great benefits and an opportunity to build a long and successful career.

Public Sector Manager Adam Rouse recently sat down with Scott Jarvis, one of four Deputy Directors of Finance at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust to find out why he has stayed with the NHS for 32 years, and what he feels the NHS offers candidates looking for a fulfilling and lengthy career.

Can you tell me a bit about your career and experience to date?

My career started a long time ago. I graduated university in 1987 with a mathematics, statistics and economics degree and at the time didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wrote to some local employers and ended up getting a meeting with the then deputy treasurer of Southern Derbyshire Health Authority. At the time he was looking for a trainee to join his team, and after that initial discussion we both agreed to ‘give it a go’, so I started the following Monday.

While working as a local district trainee Southern Derbyshire Health Authority allowed me to take time out to complete my CIMA qualification and gave me exposure to various departments, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Once qualified I was promoted to Senior Management Accountant and looked after all the corporate HQ budgets. This gave me good access to the Senior Management Team and helped me increase my presence within the organisation. I then took a secondment to the Family Health Services Authority (FHSA) and moved all their hand-written bound ledgers and day books onto spreadsheets. During this time we did a lot with GP fund holders and I managed a number of staff. When the FHSA merged I took a secondment to the Derby City General Hospital giving me a real feeling of working and doing good for the NHS.

I joined as a Directorate Accountant and worked my way up to Head of Financial Management. Soon after I joined we merged with the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, implemented a new ledger for day one of the merger, applied for and got first wave Foundation Trust status and built a large PFI hospital. All the experience I ever needed was in Derby, so I never moved. More recently Derby has merged with Burton Hospitals and we now have five sites and over 12,000 employees.

I’ve been working here now for over 20 years and deputy for about 15 of them.

Does the NHS have exciting career progression opportunities?

Yes. At school and university I never had the ambition to be an accountant and certainly never considered the NHS as a career. I ended up working for the NHS by accident because someone gave me a break, I studied and qualified and then never looked back. I was lucky that at the time the demands on NHS Finance departments were growing faster than the supply of qualified accountants. Since then the importance of finance has grown enormously and the service has become far more organised and professional as a result. There is an excellent NHS graduate training scheme but also far more opportunities to start as an apprentice in your local area and work your way up.

Is it easy to find out what opportunities for progression are available?

Most job vacancies are advertised on the NHS jobs national website and it is really easy to register an account and then to receive alerts for roles that come up in the locations and role types that you are interested in. Also, once you are in a role in a department there are often opportunities in other areas of finance within that organisation or nearby. The NHS is the sort of organisation where you will either love it and stay forever or move on if you decide it is not for you. Because the NHS is a large group of individual organisations it is very possible to have a long and varied career and to remain within the larger NHS throughout.

What do you put your success in the NHS down to?

I have always been open to doing more than was written in my current job description. The NHS moves surprisingly quickly sometimes so you just have to adapt and keep up. Political announcements can be made one day and the ‘rules’ changed overnight. Be prepared for constant change and you will be fine.

I have always tried to maintain a large group of contacts within the NHS finance community and this has been greatly helped by being actively involved with networking events run by the HFMA (Healthcare Financial Management Association), both locally and nationally.

What do you think makes a successful NHS employee?

In NHS finance and the NHS in general it’s just about trying your best to do the right thing. The regime and rules and targets and financial pressures make the job difficult but at the end of the day, the NHS is full of people doing their best every day to do the right thing by patients. Even in the finance departments.

The NHS has a good track record for holding onto its employees, why do you think this is?

It’s a vocation, a job for life. However, you got into the NHS, if you are bitten by the bug then you’re quite likely to stay for a long time. I still work with some people who were already here when I joined all those years ago. It’s a big family. Some of the people I work with now I met as babies as they were born to colleagues!

Will this success continue? Do you think the next generation of NHS workers will have the same commitment/longevity that you have enjoyed?

Like with many jobs nowadays, the younger generations seem to be happy to switch jobs, employers and even careers, much more than my generation.

The NHS finance community is large enough to accommodate this and should support them more to switch between organisations and roles. It will be beneficial for the organisations if the employees have wider experiences of other parts of the NHS. We need to balance this with organisational memory though. A lot of my success has come from being here long enough to know why we did something!

What do you think about the current NHS staffing crisis and what can we do to help the NHS attract the talent it needs?

We don’t train enough people to be the NHS staff of the future. This isn’t such a problem with finance roles as all industries employ finance staff so if the offer is good enough we will always be able to recruit. For clinical staff this isn’t the case. The NHS is to a large extent, the sole employer in the country for some types of staff. If we don’t train enough then each organisation will be competing with every other one for a limited supply. We must think longer term and train more people.

Why do you think there is such a strain on NHS talent at the minute?

The demands placed on the NHS by the public continue to increase year-on-year. For an aging population this is not really a surprise.

Reductions in services provided by other areas of the public sector have also massively impacted on the NHS. As it is “always open” it becomes the safety net as more and more people seek help that is no longer available from other sources.

If you had a single piece of advice to NHS candidates what would that be?

My advice is always the same, take all the opportunities that present themselves, listen to the people who have been doing the job for years regardless of their grade or position, don’t assume you know everything already, join the HFMA and go to events and build long-term relationships in your networks. Your networks will help you in the future.

What next…

If you like what you hear and are interested in a job within the NHS, please get in touch with myself or a member of our NHS recruitment.

Alternately you can check out our latest NHS jobs here.