The past is a foreign country


Not quite as iconic as 1984 perhaps but for me at least the year holds a special place in my heart, because March 1994 was the year that Sollis was founded.

Twenty years.

For those of you with a keen eye for history here are some other memorable events from 1994:

  • Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president.
  • Oasis release their debut album Definitely Maybe, ushering in the Brit-pop era.
  • Schindler’s List wins Oscar for Best Picture.
  • The Channel Tunnel opens.
  • PC manufacturers move to the new Intel Pentium chips.
  • Sony PlayStation launched.
  • The Peoples Republic of China gets its first connection to the Internet.
  • US President Bill Clinton delivers his first State of the Union address calling for health reform.
  • Telly Savalas dies.
  • Harry Styles is born.

I remember being a little upset at the passing of Kojak.

My eight year old daughter had to tell me who Harry Styles is.

Also in 1994 The Department of Health released ‘Developing NHS Purchasing and GP Fundholding: Towards a Primary Care Led NHS‘.


Twenty years on we now talk of commissioning (another word for purchasing) and primary care remains central to the vision for how services might be transformed to ensure the existence of a relevant and sustainable healthcare system into the future.

Prior to helping set up Sollis in 1994 I worked for ten years in the NHS. Starting as a Management Trainee back in 1984 I joined at the time of The Griffiths Report (some of you reading this blog may even have read it). I therefore started my work with the NHS during a period of organisational change.

Plus ça Change.

Over the past thirty years I have often felt that the service has been subjected to a state of permanent revolution. In my view too often the central focus of that history of change has been around structures and organisations within which the patient has become lost.

Today in 2014 the prevailing narrative is built around a single word: transformation. But just like commissioning is another way of saying purchasing, so transformation is another way of saying change. This time the need for change feels very real, and this time the focus for change needs to be genuinely centred on the patient.

If I have learnt one lesson from my twenty years of running a business then it is that survival depends on organising around the customer and their needs. I see no difference in healthcare. Organise around the patient and their physical and emotional needs. Organise around patients and their clinical condition, not around systems and structures that in any case may no longer be relevant to the needs of patients and public today.

As I look forward to my third decade with Sollis, my vision is to be part of a company that helps deliver change. I believe change is not inconsistent with a deeply held view that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need and not the ability to pay. Indeed I would argue that without change the NHS cannot stay true to this defining principle.

My desire is to lead an organisation that helps healthcare professionals truly transform services for patients. I believe that data, information and intelligence are a pre-requisite for service transformation. If commissioning decisions are not being made on the basis of insight driven by data, then by implication they are being made on the basis of hearsay, anecdote and fairy tale.

In healthcare the days of business as usual are over. Today we are all challenged with maximising value for patients. We must all create a future where we improve outcomes for patients whilst at the same time reducing costs. We must create a patient centred system where patient outcomes are the prevailing concern. When we think of the data and intelligence that supports this new world of outcomes based commissioning we must ensure that what we measure are outcomes that matter to patients. This surely is the true measure of quality.

We at Sollis embrace any agenda that seeks to maximise value for patients.

Delivering insight from data. This is what drives Sollis. This is why we exist as a company. To help commissioners and healthcare professionals make informed decisions and through their expert efforts to create a world where patients can exercise control.

And we haven’t got twenty years to do it.