Message from the Chair

Tom Taylor introduces the NHSCFA's 2022-23 Business Plan

I hold a number of governance roles with collective responsibility for billions of pounds of public purse funding, but I am especially proud to be the Chair of the National Health Service Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA), primarily because it is part of our NHS.

I am of a generation that can recall the roots of the NHS and the powerful part it has played in post-war national recovery, growing to be the envy of the world, showcased spectacularly at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Yet seldom have I derived more satisfaction from my role than I have during the global pandemic, when the value of our function as one of the protectors of the NHS finances came into stark relief.

The NHSCFA’s current strategy was developed in 2019 and the period to which this plan aligns spans three years from 2020. This plan represents the last year of that strategy period, past the epicentre of the pandemic. It has been and will continue to be a time of unparalleled challenge and constant uncertainty. Now, as the broader impact of the pandemic is felt, financial challenges combined with new ways of working create circumstances in which fraud potentially thrives. Organisations like ours simply must stay ahead, continuously listen, learn and adapt.

The World Economic Forum recently suggested that resilience, flexibility and a “we” mentality are some of the future fit traits that successful leaders need. I can not agree more. A key role of the Board is to ensure that the financial resources allocated by the Government are invested by our teams in line with the agreed plan and that we extract maximum value from our people and systems in the process. We share best practice from elsewhere, we offer support and guidance and we provide challenge and expect flexibility and dedication in return.

Over the last twelve months I have overseen the cyclical change of a number of Non-Executive Director posts and seen the retirement of our former CEO Susan Frith. Despite Sue taking a wealth of NHSCFA expertise and experience with her, we have found an excellent replacement for her in the form of Alex Rothwell, a successor with much complementary experience drawn from a career with the police and a leadership skill-set future-fit for the challenges ahead. He has already made partnership working, the “we”, his watchword and collaborative working in partnership is very much the cornerstone of this plan.

During the first year of this strategy cycle, we recruited a new Performance Director, Tricia Morrison, who has overhauled our performance management and planning processes as well as introduced consistent project management processes and systems. We then improved the remainder of our core processes and introduced common standards; a fresh approach to fraud risk assessment; knowledge sharing, horizon scanning and a new NHS fraud case management system: Clue. This has made the identification of best practice a great deal easier as well as providing much needed consistency in how we manage investigations and we are confident that we will increasingly bear the fruit of this work as we progress our plan.

Much of the apparatus of law enforcement had to be suspended during lockdown restrictions, impacting significantly on prosecutions and our bottom-line financial goals. However, we invested otherwise fallow time wisely, and even hit our revised financial goals, despite the restrictions. We still have a very significant, stretching financial target looming large over the remaining part of the strategic period but we are a resilient bunch and continue to strive for unprecedented results.

As we enter this business planning period, we have already completed the consultation phase of our Evolution programme, which is intended to ensure that we continuously improve our operating model to remain fit for purpose. We have simultaneously launched and significantly progressed a comprehensive Stakeholder Engagement Programme to ensure that we prioritise, consult, involve and empower our primary representatives within the NHS, across government and the counter fraud profession. We have also introduced new communication platforms, channels and campaigns to ensure that we continue to add value where they need it most.

None of us possesses a crystal ball that can show how the government’s re-organisation of the NHS is going to work in practice or how long and hard the financial road ahead will be following COVID-19. We can, however, give our assurances as a Board on behalf of the wider NHSCFA team that we will remain committed to our core purpose and will do our utmost to deliver the performance targets detailed in this plan, as we simultaneously start the process of planning for the next three-year strategic cycle.

Tom Taylor