Published: 11/4/2002, Volume II2, No. 5800 Page 111

Monitor does like a good bit of research. You know, something truly illuminating in a more or less revelatory sort of way. So what a joy to receive a press release from fantastic Dr Fox himself. Yes, the Tories' glamorous health spokesman, Dr Liam Fox, is 'commenting on Conservative Party research that reveals many parts of the NHS will be saddled with huge debts...' Monitor skipped lightly past the Foxy soundbites to get at the meaty research within. Teams of central office number crunchers must have been up all night piecing together these tasty Tory titbits. Because It is groundbreaking stuff all right. 'According to the Health Service Journal , ' the smaller print on page two begins, 'the NHS could be facing an end-of-year overspend of up to£150m, which according to the Journal 's sources. . .' Monitor hasn't seen anything like this material for, oh, at least a week or so.

Flipping quickly on to page four (of six), Monitor is reminded how the daily Fox-fax used to clog up his machine come election time. Dr Fox has always been one to make up in suavity what he lacks in brevity (see pictures left). It really is a rather sizeable press release. 'Below are extracts from the specialist media, highlighting the problem, ' Conservative HQ trumpets proudly. Gosh, what specialist media could it be? A helpful little number at the end of the sentence sends Monitor scurrying to the references. And would you believe, the eight paragraphs that follow are from none other than HSJ . A lucky hack is even credited by name.

Halfway down the page, however, comes a piece of arithmetic Dr Fox should sort out before facing any voters who can count. 'A second article in the Health Service Journal says, ' - though Monitor makes it the third by now - that 'the NHS is on the brink of another financial crisis'. A few more lovingly lifted paragraphs follow, whereupon there is no further mention of your favourite magazine until page five (just the two quotes) before the references on that exciting final page. Well, what impressive 'Conservative Party research' that was. Monitor suggests that any NHS managers having a tough time on the financial brink should contemplate a career change to the calmer - and perhaps more rarefied - atmosphere of Smith Square. It is easy: all you need to be a top Conservative central office researcher is a pair of scissors, a tube of glue and a subscription to HSJ . Though a twinset and pearls and a pater in merchant banking might help.

The Department of Health, of course, has another research technique entirely.

The Richmond House boffins have no problem with raw data collection, as those who completed its survey about use of the private sector concordat will confirm. But the sad process of trying to extract the results continues: none are forthcoming. A harassed HSJ hack has now spent a full six months quizzing the DoH press office about the survey's whereabouts, since its 12 October closing date. Meanwhile, Monitor is celebrating six months of spectacular Richmond House silence with half a cake.

Now, local news brought to Monitor's attention by The Middy , an august organ covering Mid - and that does mean Mid - Sussex. The Middy reports that scurrilous allegations about an NHS chief executive have been 'blown out of the water' by the brave - but since the time of writing sadly defunct - South East regional office. The office formerly known as regional stepped in to quash allegations made in mental health service users' newsletter Briefing that West Sussex health authority chair Teri Hawksworth had 'bent the rules' to get her job. Leaving aside the fact that Ms Hawksworth would have been somewhat misguided to go to such lengths to secure a job with a distinctly short shelf-life, The Middy brings us the allegations in all their glorious detail.

It says Briefing had claimed that poor Teri should never have been appointed to her West Sussex HA job because she failed to declare she lived outside the area - in East Sussex. The Briefing article apparently implied that Ms Hawksworth deliberately disguised a shocking East Sussex residency by stating her address as 'Haywards Heath, Sussex', without a hint of east, west, mid or any other of Sussex's importantly distinct regions. But The Middy has checked with the post office and found her address to be quite correct. And South East region affirmed that the conditions surrounding Teri's appointment 'were satisfactory in every way'. The former West Sussex chair is presumably now able to get a wider perspective on the Sussex splinters now that she's been appointed to the unambiguously titled Surrey and Sussex Strategic HA.