Finding The Almoner

John from Bradford rang a talk radio show studio in London running a phone-in on the "envy of the world", Britain's NHS.

A health service so good that it ranks 21st out of the top 20 in the world.

Here's what he opened up with, describing the path to today's money pit from when he worked in the system as a young man in the early Sixties;

"The five most important people in the hospital at that time were the almoner, who used to deal with the finances, the matron, deputy matron, head porter and deputy head porter, and the matron used to rule the hospital with an iron hand and if you were called up in front of matron you'd think oh god what have I done wrong!"

Now there's a job title.

Long since fallen out of everyday use, the almoner seemed a peculiarly British post, deriving from;

'the person whose function or duty is the distribution of alms on behalf of an institution'.

Specifically, back then;

'a hospital official who determines the amount due for a patient's treatment'.

With associated, expanded responsibility into all realms of financial control.

Since those times, a vast legion of people have grown outwards from such posts. To the eye-watering extent that 48% of the salary bill goes to non-clinical staff. All this in an organisation supposedly only second on earth in size to the Chinese Red Army. Who's job primarily it is (was) to heal the sick.

On the simplest level, the almoner in our solution buying world is likely to be the highest ranked person with the word Finance in their job title.

Most solution bids would pass by the screen of such person.

The modern-day 'Computer Says No' was once heard such as 'there's no budget'.

Which gets you thinking about less formal proposals. Namely, ones where no tender process is in play. One where we've created the need.

In one sense, such deals are a double-edged sword. Yes, we can go under the radar, expedite a swifter cycle time, and sate an urgent need in blissful isolation. Yet flags can raise prospect-side when people beyond the confines of those with skin in our bid realise extra monies may be about to get spent.

Envious hands clamour for a share of such non-budgetary expenditure. They can demand their needs outrank these. And seek diversion of funds released their way instead.

Prospects are used to being asked the traditional money question.

Although we know they often reply, 'I have authorisation'. Mistakenly, in many cases.

It could well be that to evoke the old language of the almoner may help deflect any resistance from misplaced ego bruising. As well as open up an actual, more realistic discussion on sign-off.

Another similar role name that may help struck me as that of 'comptroller'. Used maybe solely now for 'the royal-household official who examines and supervises expenditures'. Also in the past, for general labelling of an official overseeing a public (an on occasion, private) body's departmental accounting and reporting.

You'd have to pick your audience wisely. But could you hear yourself asking something like,

'so who's your modern-day almoner/comptroller for this kind of plan?'

If so, as long as you don't harm your chances by being seen as an alien generation or down with the dinosaurs, it might just see you earn a vital touch of difference which helps uniquely unveil true political and purchasing pathways.

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