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Gayle Wells

Strategic Business Accountant, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

“I was drawn to CIMA as it was the best option to take me through from qualification, and into a lifelong career in finance in any sector”

Tell us about your career pathway from when you started to work in finance to your current role.
When I finished my degree I started to work in a small private sector Nursing Agency.  The Agency would arrange private and local authority funded care and assistance for people living in their own homes.  As I had a degree, the owner suggested that I work alongside the accountant on the billing side of the business.  After a few months I realized that I was capable of doing a lot of this support, and enjoying it, and looked at how I could undertake a formal qualification in accountancy.

Whilst working full time, I decided to start studying CIMA, completely self-funded.  I had no exemptions with having an English degree so I had to complete all of the levels including the foundation stage.  During the first year I was really struggling to understand how this all worked in practice for example how debits and credits worked.  I knew that I wanted to work in the public sector and so I started looking for roles in local NHS organisations that might support me to work in finance, and learn at the same time.  In 2002 I was successfully appointed as Management Accountant in Sefton Health Authority.

I worked in Sefton as part of a small multidisciplinary team.  At the start there were only two finance members in the team, me and the Head of Finance.  I enjoyed working in this way with other non-financial members of staff, and progressed through my qualifications and gained seniority to managing one member of staff in 2003.

In 2004 I moved role to Wigan PCT (Primary Care Trust) as a Finance Manager in Financial Management and over the next 8 years I gained a large range of experiences working in all of the commissioning areas and managed additional members of staff as part of this role.

In 2004 I also concluded my exams, and shortly thereafter was successfully admitted as an Associate member of CIMA.

In 2011, as part of a departmental reorganization, I was successfully appointed to the role of Assistant Director of Finance, Financial Management and Contracting which gave me leadership of a team of 15 finance staff.  I was then a member of the senior finance team and regularly deputized for the Deputy Director of Finance and Chief Finance Officer.  The PCT became a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in 2013.  As part of my role I was responsible for the closedown of the PCT, and the legal transfer order, and management of all contracts for health to transfer safely to the new successor organisations.

Since 2013, as part of my role, I regularly attended the Finance and Performance Committee (a formal subcommittee of the Governing Body), writing reports as well as presenting to this meeting.  I also wrote reports and supported the provision of finance papers for the Governing Body.  I also had to develop and maintain external relationships with partner organisations, other CCGs and neighbouring NHS Trusts as well as NHS England.

In 2014, as part of my personal development and organizational succession planning, I rotated my role from Assistant Director, Financial Management and Contracting to Assistant Director, Financial Control and Governance for 12 months. This required me to oversee and be responsible for the production of the CCG statutory accounts for 2014/15. I was also the lead in the CCG in writing reports for, presenting to and supporting the Remuneration Committee and Audit Committee, both formal committees of the Governing Body.

I rotated back to my role as Assistant Director, Financial Management in July 2015. 

In 2016 I applied and was successfully appointed to a new role at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Strategic Business Accountant – Secure Division.  The role is the senior finance lead to the clinical division (c£52m p.a.) and supporting the transformation and financial sustainability of the division which provides high, medium and low secure mental health services for the Mersey & Cheshire area of the NW of England.  I am currently finance lead on a Full Business Case for the development of a new 123 bed Medium Secure unit which will be £60m capital, £25m p.a. revenue scheme.

Why did you choose to study CIMA?
When I was researching choices of qualifications, I knew that my main choice was between CIMA and CIPFA.  And whilst I knew I wanted to work in the public sector, I was worried that the CIPFA qualification might constrain me in the future and not expose me to commercial, even global experience and training.  I was drawn to CIMA as it was the best option to take me through from qualification, and into a lifelong career in finance in any sector.

What are the benefits of being a CGMA to your role today?
When it comes to my professional qualification I believe that the fact that I have an international qualification gives me assurance that I have had access to the best training possible, and that I continue to have access to a network of resources and support to allow me to continue to develop professionally throughout my future career.

Can you describe a specific instance you have successfully completed/major challenge you have overcome by using CGMA skills? 
With a grounding in strong technical skills learnt through my CIMA studies, I feel this really supported me in the 12 month secondment completing the organisation’s accounts in 2014/15.  My contribution to the accounts was recognized formally by the Director of Finance, to the Audit Committee, who commended the year and the subsequent external audit of the accounts as one of the best in his career in the NHS.

What energizes or ignites you? What are your true passions?
I have always had a strong belief in volunteering.  Even as a teenager I supported charities, and volunteered for local schemes such as Riding for the Disabled, and Summer Holiday for disabled children.  When I was in University, I participated twice in the Camp America, summer camp, Programme.  

I still volunteer, as a Cub Scout helper, and as a PTA member for my children’s school. In 2014 I became a Future Focused Finance Value Maker which is a voluntary role as an ambassador for the work undertaken by the Future Focused Finance programme.  In 2015 I won a national prize for my Value Maker involvement.

I feel strongly that I come to work every day to make a difference for the patients that we care for.

What does the future hold for you?
I couldn’t have planned all of the amazing opportunities I have had in the last five years, or even imagined some of them.  I tend not to have a future plan, but only to embrace each new opportunity as it comes, as each new opportunity could be the start of a new chapter!

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