PERSPECTIVE 10 for 10
Kevin Orford, Director of Finance at Cardiff & Vale UHB:
Kevin, you’re now working as Interim Director of Finance at Cardiff & Vale University Health Board and you’re the former Chief Exec of East Midlands SHA...
What prompted your decision to give that up and to move into interim roles?
I had worked in substantive NHS roles for over 20 years, mainly in Finance Director and Chief Executive posts, latterly at an SHA. The new NHS Act abolishes SHAs, so I took the opportunity to leave and establish a portfolio career comprising executive coaching, consultancy, non-executive and interim work. The objective was to be involved in a wider range of issues and also to free up some time for charitable interests. I have been appointed as a Trustee and Board Member of the charity Stonewall Equality, which builds on - and is an outlet for - my interest in the equality agenda. I am also involved in finance related research projects at the Nottingham Business School where I am a Visiting Fellow.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to move from a substantive to an interim role?
For me, I think it was important that the move into new kinds of work was part of a life strategy as well as a work strategy. I have a new relationship with work these days. So, the first advice would be to know why you are moving to interim and be clear with yourself about what your desired work and life outcomes are.
Then, I think the main issue is that as an Interim, you usually have much less time to make an impact on the organisation you are working for. The "first 90 days" thing really comes into focus. I have become very focussed on what needs to be achieved week by week. That can make the work feel a little intense sometimes, but it brings enormous job satisfaction as you achieve your milestones.
It is really important also that you can quickly integrate into your new team as you only really deliver by working well with others. You don't have long to get to know people and how best to interface with them. You need to apply skills in quickly building rapport.
What are your thoughts around the current Healthcare reforms and the scale of change that’s underway?
There are many aspects of the NHS reforms which will bring real benefits in terms of health outcomes and patient experience. I have been appointed in a Non-Executive lay member role to a Clinical Commissioning Group. It is clear to me that the appointment of GPs to Board level positions has the potential to take Healthcare commissioning to a step change. The reforms also accelerate the move of NHS Trusts to becoming Foundation Trusts, which I believe will bring significant benefits to patients.
I am currently working three days each week as Interim Finance Director for the Cardiff and Vale Health Board. In Wales, the NHS is structured very differently with the Health Boards responsible for provision of the entire patient pathway from GP services through community services to acute care. Unlike England, there are no Foundation Trusts in Wales and there is almost no commissioning function - apart from for the most specialised services. This has many advantages in planning and delivering Health services. It is a real privilege to be working in both systems at the same time and to compare the impact. It is something I may turn into a research piece at some point.
With all of the changes that are happening, how do you see your own role evolving?
One of the real joys of doing interim assignments and a wider portfolio of work is that you are always meeting new people and I find that this leads to new opportunities which you never realised were there. I think my work could take me down many new paths. I do think there will be growth in the demand for NHS Interim Directors as the new structure settles down.
Away from Healthcare specific issues, what do you think are the core challenges that face interims?
Compared to working in a substantive role, for me there is the challenge of working away from home and staying in hotels. This is OK in my three day a week role, but I would find it difficult to do that in a full time role. You also don't know where your next work and income is coming from, nor when and so you need to build that uncertainty into your personal planning.
How do you find balancing the demands of the job and the politics that goes with it?
The politics is part of the job, especially if you are undertaking a director role. For me, politics is really about the need to engage and involve your key stakeholders whether they be politicians, your customers, your workforce, your public or your suppliers. If you value that input and can work with it, you will be doing a better job in your role and ultimately the work will be more interesting and satisfying.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
In the interim position, it really is that I am constantly learning new things from the new people I am working with and learning new ways to apply the skills and experience I bring.
What do you think makes a good interim?
To be an effective Interim, you clearly have to be capable in the fundamental competencies for the role you are undertaking, but also it is necessary to apply your skills and knowledge to the specific requirements of the organisation and to match the style and culture of the organisation. Before taking the Cardiff role, I checked out their values statement to ensure that it had a good fit with my own values. In Cardiff, I bring my years of experience but it is also important to be prepared to learn. Sometimes I feel I am learning as much as I am applying my experience and that benefits all parties.
Do you have a motto or saying that guides you in your professional life?
The saying "swim with the tide, but faster" worked well for me in my NHS career and I think it applies just as much to my new portfolio career.