Seven Year Itch

Angus-Wrixon-client services-director-Salix-and-CoDo you know what the traditional gift is for a seventh wedding anniversary? Copper and wool.

Who knew?

Apparently, the gift of wool represents the “comfort, durability and warmth that couples married this long give one another”. Proverb 31 describes the wives of noble character as women who select wool and “spin yarns with eager hands…”.

Seven years ago to the day, we opened the doors at Salix. I’d like to think that in this time, we have offered considerable comfort and warmth to our clients and our team. We’ve certainly had to be durable – how were we to know that October 2008 marked the beginning of the deepest and lengthiest recession for years – and worst possible time to be opening a new business?

As for spinning yarns, crafting a narrative is woven into our DNA, but we tend to leave the spin to others. Our guiding principle has always been ‘the truth well told’, something it seems we have done to good effect, as we’ve just learned we have been shortlisted as Specialist Consultancy of the Year, in our standard-setting sector body’s national awards.

Anniversaries always provide an opportunity for reflection – the good, the bad and the downright unbelievable. However, if there has been one constant in the seven years Salix has been around, it is the relentless change in the health landscape.

In 2008, the imploding Labour administration of the time fielded the excellent Alan Johnson as Secretary of State for Health. Darzi’s High Quality Care for All was the thing people were talking about.

In June 2009, Andy Burnham took up the baton, the Care Quality Commission was born and Sir David Nicholson gave us his £20 billion challenge. And then, in June 2010, we got the Coalition Government which in turn, gave us Andrew Lansley who, lest anyone has forgotten, gave us the Health and Social Care Bill.

Who could forget the moment Number 10 cottoned on to the fact that Lansley, left largely to his own devices, had quietly been creating a Frankenstein-like monster in his garden shed? There followed a period of reflection known as “the pause” which should, more accurately, have been known as the period of “blind panic”.

Lansley was defenestrated in pretty short order and it has been left to Jeremy Hunt to pick up the pieces and try to restore some sort of order to a battered and bruised NHS. Simon Stevens’ arrival with his Five Year Forward View (“it’s not a plan!”) together with its Vanguards, New Models of Care and the like has, arguably, steadied the ship somewhat.

On a positive note, at least the 5YFV seems to be concentrating minds on the art of the possible and should encourage organisations to make the most of their resources. But, just as there might be a glimmer of hope, we once again enter an interesting period politically.

For the moment, it would seem there isn’t a coherent official government opposition – but if the new shadow Secretary of State for Health, Heidi Alexander, can’t make some noise about winter pressures, GPs leaving both the profession and the country in droves, trusts going bust by the day and the day-to-day turmoil that epitomises our health sector, she isn’t fit for the job.

So, after a little self-indulgent reflection on our anniversary, a look ahead: in another seven years, we will be nearly two years into whatever administration follows this one. Whatever can we expect, hope for or dread? Health and social care merged properly? Co-payment for seeing a GP? Community pharmacists doing more clinical work? A two tier NHS and mandatory health insurance? CQC morphing into something else? Foundation Trusts becoming “Foundation Trusts Plus”?

The list is endless and there are bound to be surprises to confound us all. All of which should keep us at Salix & Co busy trying to keep track of it all for the next seven years at least!