Published: 26/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5824 Page 6
Over the now long-gone lazy summer months, Monitor has had nothing better to do than catch up on weighty government reports about cutting bureaucracy. And so it was that he stumbled on yet another success story in the never-ending battle to cut down on the workload of those poorly paid and overworked GPs. Having perused all 44 pages of a report on reducing burdens on family doctors, Monitor was delighted to find out that they are no longer obliged to certify that people who are alive are not dead. This is just the sort of radical initiative that he knows will hasten that glorious day when 48-hour access to GP appointments will be the right of every red-blooded Englishman - and woman. Presumably live ones, although with the lack of certification one can presumably not be absolutely sure.
A highly skilled Cabinet Office team has identified that it is asking too much of doctors to expect them to certify whether private pension holders 'are still alive'. But not to be diverted from its task, the Cabinet Office delegated the plucky Association of British Insurers to sort out the problem and - lo and behold - it issued guidance to remove from forms the 'suggestion that the GP could countersign to confirm their [the policy holders'] existence'. Now that this burden has been removed, one wonders what on earth GPs still find to moan about.
No sooner had Monitor confirmed that his existence did not have to be certified by a GP than he realised he faced challenges from myriad other sources. First there was the alarming news that inefficient storage of medical records could be the difference between life and death - perhaps this was why GPs, no less, had been called upon to make this vital distinction. Monitor checked with the medical records people that his own details were in the alive section and then was relieved to be told by storage specialists Rackline that this risk can be instantly minimised 'through effective file management'.
Suitably alerted to the dangers lurking in misplaced files, Monitor was abruptly stopped in his tracks by news of the scourge of 'travelling pets'.
Monitor knows that low-cost airlines are all the rage, but the news from north west director of public health Professor John Ashton that easier travel for pets, especially during the summer months, 'could mean more diseases for both animals and humans' was the last straw. Monitor read with trepidation of fox tapeworm, Mediterranean spotted fever and heartworm being brought back from foreign climes by man's best friend.
All this talk of death and disease made Monitor think about his own mortality and how he would like to be remembered. And so it was with delight that he discovered the ultimate tribute to hard-working health managers - their very own road.
Thus it was that Brian Stoten, former chair of Birmingham health authority, found his name in lights - well, at least black letters on a white road sign - at a 'party-style' ceremony to mark the closure of Monyhull Hospital, Kings Norton, held by South Birmingham primary care trust.
The hospital was built nearly a century ago for people with severe learning disabilities and has gradually closed as patients have moved out. Much of the site is being redeveloped for housing, but it still contains the Greenfields base for clinicians. Now a little corner of Kings Norton will forever be Stoten, as Stoten Drive gracefully leads down to the Greenfields. Monitor can only hope a precedent has not been established and that the Milburn bypass and Crisp flyover are not in the offing.
Finally, Monitor is delighted to discover that the announcement from Gloucestershire Hospitals trust that spotted dick is back in hospital is in no way related to sightings of a wandering patient with Mediterranean spotted fever. Instead, it heralds the reinstatement of that most traditional of British puddings to the trust's menus after three years of being known as spotted Richard. One to gladden the heart, if not to improve its health.