Published: 09/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5804 Page 80
Monitor has quite calmed down about the prospect of cross-charging skint social services departments for bed-blocking and is looking forward to IOUs and offers to do the washing-up from despairing social workers. But readers will recall that the scheme originates in what Monitor has learned to call Sverige, and that everyone who is anyone in NHSery and policy wonkdom has been traipsing all over Sweden in search of the elusive Swedish model. Monitor repeats: the model is a kind of charging device, not a sultry someone of the Sven or Ulrika type. But the message appears to have been lost on our parliamentary representatives. Andy Burnham, a Labour member of the Commons health select committee, is the latest to confuse swish and Swedish England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson with government policy on elderly people, though fans of gettingon-a-bit striker Teddy Sheringham may find this an easy mistake to make. Mr Burnham's confusion became apparent in response to Tory health spokesperson Dr Liam Fox. 'Perhaps the hon. member for Woodspring [Dr Fox], like Mr Eriksson, is keeping his options open, ' he suggested. 'He is attracted by the Swedish and Italian models, but does not fancy the British much.' Monitor only hopes that Sven will not seek revenge by firing up the team for the crucial Argentina game with a comprehensive explanation of care pathways and the importance of hospital discharge lounges.
Still, at least the MPs are always ready to call the government to account, especially on the vexed questions of NHS activity. So here's to Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Tim Loughton, hot on the heels of that fascinating publication NHS Plan News . In a written question that lightly skips over the matter of whether anyone actually reads the publication, Mr Loughton asks ministers: 'How many copies of NHS Plan News were returned for recycling by NHS premises?' Clearly, every copy recycled is a best practice-spreading opportunity wasted. But public health minister Yvette Cooper fails to address Mr Loughton's rather negative attitude to one of Monitor's favourite publications, detailing instead 'the distribution management process' that allows all NHS bodies and social services departments to pinpoint exactly how many copies they need. 'Only in the case of distribution errors or changes in requirements did the Department of Health arrange for the return of copies, ' Ms Cooper replies. So how many was that? And were they recycled in an environmentally good-for-the-public-health sort of way? Ms Cooper is not forthcoming. 'Amendments to the distribution database were immediate. It was not, therefore, necessary to retain information about copies collected or returned, ' she states. What a pity.
Monitor couldn't help noticing that the words 'enterprise' and 'entrepreneur' cropped up a lot in chancellor Gordon Brown's budget speech - more than twice as often as 'fairness', Monitor thought, before he lost track amid the excitement of the NHS cash announcement. But while Mrs Monitor was enraptured by Gordon's performance and his big red box, Monitor prefers the passionate delivery and sparkling wit of our own Nigel Crisp. And how lovely it is to hear words of praise from one of Nigel's army of fans, who reports from the recent conference of primary care trusts. It is hard to make an impression when Alan Milburn and Tony Blair are among the glitterati, but our Nige has that special connection with the frontline of the NHS. So much so that Nigel's slide presenting PCTs' top concerns caused a genuine ripple of interest. 'I think people were a bit surprised, ' Monitor's caller says, to find 'patient choice' well up the list, but no mention of prescribing pressures. Surely our Nige would never presume to substitute the DoH's priorities for the view on the frontline? Monitor's caller puts it down to Mr Crisp's considerate forethought. 'It bore the hallmarks of one he prepared earlier, ' he says. 'I think it was up to his usual standard.'
What's in a name? Surely a Commission for Health Improvement by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, maybe. But the new 'super-CHI' - the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection announced in the postBudget health policy avalanche - has a remarkably similar sounding name.
A friend of Monitor suggests that CHAI, which will in future cast its eagle eyes over private hospitals and clinics as well as the NHS, has perhaps been named after New Labour's favourite private healthcare tycoon Chai Patel, who was at the helm of Westminster Health Care before its acquisition by equity group 3i last week. Monitor hopes that Chai, with only the Priory Group left in his care, appreciates the gesture.