"I think some people perceive finance managers in the public sector as sitting in a box room, telling the people that work in the organisation not to spend any more money. But that couldn’t be further from the truth," says Roshan Patel, 27, financial management trainee at the NHS.
"I get to advise managers in the trust about how to develop and streamline the service, with the knowledge that ultimately I’ll be helping to make hospitals run more smoothly. That is very rewarding," he says. Having gained a 2:1 in Chemical Engineering from the University of Bath in 2001, Roshan decided he wanted to go on a fast-track graduate scheme that would expose him to management and finance, as well as gain a professional qualification. The recruitment process is renowned for being so tough that even to get through to the interview stage is an achievement.
"Recently, I was involved in the assessment of new graduates and, given the number of applications we got, I realised what a feat it is to get past the first stage," he says. Roshan was shocked when he was accepted. "I felt I’d done well on some assessments and not so well on others," he admits. Having joined the scheme in 2002 after travelling for a few months he gained experience in different roles and departments such as financial management accounting, internal audit and capital accounting.
Now in his penultimate month of the scheme, he works at Hillingdon Hospital Trust, where he is divisional accountant for ambulatory care, diagnostics and therapy. "I am responsible for providing finance management to all the managers in the division, and I have line management responsibility for a management accountant who works for me. With a budget of just under £25m, which is almost one-fifth of the trust’s entire expenditure, it is a considerable amount of responsibility."
What he most enjoys is communicating with these individuals to develop proposals for the future of the trust, as well as talking to frontline staff so he can relate their work back to his. "One of the main reasons I chose the NHS is because it’s not about making profit but improving people’s lives," he says.