Martin, Director for Primary Care and Counter-Fraud Services, NHS National Services Scotland
I’m Martin, I’m Director for Primary Care and Counter-Fraud Services in NHS National Services Scotland (NSS). I’ve been in this job for just over 2 years.
Before that, I was an Associate director looking at strategy, planning and performance amongst other things. I’ve been with NHSScotland since I left the military in 2013.
What did your job in the army entail?
I started off in the territorial army as a driver, then went to Sandhurst to do officer’s training. I became an officer, doing all sorts of jobs. I’ve worked in admin, medical operations, I’ve run general practice, ambulance services, and casualty evacuation.
Most of my time was spent in Royal Army Medical Corps, where I was either planning or delivering medical support or operations.
I got to do an awful lot of fun and exciting things and some scary things, including operational tours around the world.
What was your perception of the NHS and how has that changed since you started work here?
The NHS was, on the face of things, all about doctors and nurses and hospitals. However, my experience in the military tells me that most of healthcare is done pre-hospital. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, and training to make sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time, to deliver care.
I thought the health service would be quite bureaucratic and hospital-focused. I work for a part of the NHS that is quite administrative, but we contribute directly to patient care. In my role, I make sure we deliver programmes of work that support primary care, whether that’s in general practice or across care people get in the community. We’re in the background helping to support that work.
In the last 12 months with COVID, we’ve seen that when the NHS needs to mobilise quickly, it can and does. It does a fantastic job and the people are brilliant. I don’t think my perception has changed massively. I’m just really proud to be part of the NHS.
What NHS career interested you and how did you get started?
My background in the military was planning and delivering medical support, so I knew that is what I wanted to do in the NHS.
When I was due to leave the military in 2013, I had built up a lot of time off. I used some of that time, along with the network that I’d built up in the territorial army, to volunteer in the NHS to do some work. I said I’d come in and work for 6 weeks if they had a small project they needed to be done.
My rationale was that it would help the organisation, because they’d get some free work done, but that it would also help me because I could add that to my CV to say that I could work in the NHS and in the military.
Whilst I was there for the 6 weeks, a colleague suggested that I apply for one of the roles advertised in the department. I got that job and never left! I stayed in that job for 5 or 6 years, working on lots of different projects.
I didn’t know about NSS before I left the army. It’s one of those areas of the NHS that feels hidden or “behind-the-scenes”. It’s a great bit of the NHS because it does everything from procurement to legal to paying people to national information systems. It does a massive amount of brilliant work. I’d say there’s a job for anybody in NSS, because there are so many different roles, from forklift truck drivers and warehouse staff to accounts and lawyers to doctors and nurses.
I was just looking for a career in NHS in planning and ended up here. I gave up 6 weeks of my time to volunteer and it worked for me.
Work with the NHS to try and get experience, so you can write about it in your job application. Spending time with someone who can help you learn the language that you can use to get a job in the NHS is the key.
What support did you receive during the transition period?
I went through the formal Career Transition Partnership process. I was fortunate that as a senior officer leaving the military, I got a package in London which included learning about interview techniques and things like that.
The best advice I got from that transition period was to write up 20 achievement statements. Achievement statements set out the challenges I faced, the actions that I took, and the result I got. You should also show how these statements relate to the job you’re applying for. You can use some of those examples in your application and then the others in your interview, to show your broad experience.
It’s something I recommend my colleagues do if they want to progress. I encourage them to record those statements so that they can use them when they want to progress. That was the formal stuff around transition.
Informally, I spoke to a lot of people in my network. I was lucky enough to be the chief instructor at a training centre, so I’ve met a lot of people. I used those contacts to get a feel for different things. That was quite informal but very supportive.
What transferable skills did you bring to the role?
There are loads of transferable skills I’ve brought from the military! For example, the ability to focus on a task and analyse it in detail. Also coming up with an action plan and delivering on that action plan.
Soft skills like the ability to talk with people. No matter where I was in the world, I’ve learned to adapt and communicate with different people. All our military personnel, particularly the soldiers on the ground who speak with locals every day, have massive skillsets including the ability to talk to anyone about anything, which is a real bonus. Being able to adapt to any situation is really helpful.
I think I got the job in 2013 because of my drive and ability to push things through in a polite and kind way, but without any doubt that we were going to move on.
We’ve got a whole host of practical skills as well as soft skills to bring to the role.
Tell me about your current role? What are your main duties and responsibilities?
I’m currently responsible for practitioner and counter-fraud services. We pay all GPs, dentists, ophthalmologists and pharmacists in Scotland. We look after 10,000 practitioners. We pay £2.7billion a year, about 20 percent of the health budget in Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government and the regional Health Boards.
I also run a counter-fraud service, which helps with claims people put in. I look at procurement because that can be a major source of potential fraud and I look at potential theft in the NHS.
It’s a massive role with massive responsibility. We also have responsibility for the 8.6 million prescriptions per month in Scotland that have to be paid for.
We also run the Scottish Infected Blood Support Scheme, which looks after people who were treated with infected blood products before 1991. We look after other compensation schemes too, like the mesh compensation scheme.
What opportunities are there to develop your skills and experience?
I’ve not taken up any other qualifications. What I did do was take up a position on some of the Scotland-wide NHS leadership programmes.
A lot of what was taught was what the army had taught me, but it was updated, with different examples. There were two important things that I got from the programme. Firstly, it was to remind me of all the things I’d forgotten since my army training! Secondly, it broadened my network in healthcare. In the breakout sessions you got to speak with people from a huge range of different backgrounds, which was really helpful. That helped me understand different perspectives and there are lots of different perspectives in the NHS!
If you were preparing to come out of the military, having the opportunity to join something like the Institute of Healthcare Managers would be really useful. While I was in the military, I joined the Institute of Healthcare Managers and did the fellowship programme. That opened up courses and workshops in Scotland and that also opened doors because I was making contacts. I was going to these workshops and taking holidays just to make sure I could go and broaden my understanding and my networks.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Working with the people. Knowing that we have a great team. I have just under 500 people working for me. They’re really dedicated. A lot of them have been in the organisation for over 20 years, some of them have been here for 40 years! It’s great. The people are brilliant.
People might think what we’re doing is the less sexy end of healthcare. What we do is give people peace of mind that they know their money will be in the bank at the end of the month, so that they can get on with patient care. That brings me joy. It’s good to know you’re contributing to the overall work of the NHS.
What do you think of NHSScotland as a place to work?
It’s a fantastic place to work! Some people might think it’s slow in terms of pace, or that it’s too bureaucratic, but it does fantastic work with fantastic people. I feel incredibly privileged to be part of NHSScotland.
I couldn’t advocate highly enough a job in NHSScotland.
There’s a place for everyone in NHSScotland, it’s not just about doctors and nurses, but it is about making sure that everyone is able to work towards great patient care.
What more could you ask for? You’re helping keep your fellow citizens healthy.
What do you wish you’d known when looking for a civilian career that you think could help those currently going through resettlement?
My first advice would be to make sure you do achievement statements. Everyone will have loads of those. It doesn’t matter how far back you have to go, or if you have to go back to before you were in the military. Find times where you’ve met challenges, taken action, and achieved some results. It can be a negative result, but then show how you’ve learned from it. Think about what you’d do if you encountered a similar situation. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, just make sure you’re learning from those things that haven’t gone well.
Try your best to find out about the language you should use for the applications to the NHS. It is slightly different from the language used in the military.
Make sure you balance what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about with the demand for your skills. Also think about what you need, whether that’s staying in a specific place or having a specific salary.
I took a lesser-paid job, but I did it because I wanted and needed to come back to my family every night rather than working away from them. If you can meet the sweet spot between those 4 things, you’ll be a happy person!