Published: 10/10/2002, Volume II2, No.5826 Page

Ah, health ministers: they do not make 'em like they used to. Or perhaps there is a secret interesting side to John Hutton yet to emerge. Maybe Big Al will one day learn to bat his eyelashes in the same saucy, provocative way a certain health minister of yore managed so well (see below).

Yes, Monitor has been fondly recalling the days of salmonella in eggs and scathing attacks on Northerners' dietary habits. For even before the grey-manin-a-bed romp-fest that has emerged in recent weeks, former junior health minister Edwina Currie was a bit of a one. And how heartening to know that Edwina's ministerial stint from 1986-88 coincided with the height of her passionate affair with future prime minister John Major.

The sight of Edwina's stockinged and stilettoed legs descending into a barge for a water-inspired HSJ editorial advisory panel meeting left a worryingly lasting impression on former HSJ editor Peter Davies. But he is surely not alone - Edwina knew how to reach the parts other holders of the ministerial portfolio have never quite managed to reach. Who else could appear on TV in the early days of the AIDS crisis to demonstrate how to put on a condom 'using her hands', in the felicitous phrase of one journalist? And it takes a special kind of someone to urge travellers to avoid temptation by taking their spouse with them or, failing that, a good book. How lovely of her to think of these little public health precautions for those not fortunate enough to avoid temptation by bonking a Tory whip. Oh, Edwina!

Monitor misses you! The profile of public health will never reach such exalted heights again. But Monitor is consoling himself with the fabulous Edwina Currie website:

http: //edwina. currie. co. uk This features a long, and largely bare, pair of legs attached - if you scroll sideways far enough - to the rest of Edwina. Monitor's mouse hovers in expectation over the accompanying single word, 'Enter'.

And now to another colourful parliamentarian, Austin Haddock MP. Yes, the artist formerly known as Austin Mitchell, who represents the fishing constituency of Grimsby, has changed his name to promote his local industry.

There is an MP who knows how to, erm, make a name for himself, thinks Monitor, and all for a good cause. And what an inspiration to Darlington MP Alan Waiting-Target. Remember, what matters is what works.

And now, a breakthrough in the world of lexicography. The new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is doing its bit for healthdom by including new words such as 'HMO'. That stands for 'health maintenance organisation' - the outfits the US has instead of bothering with the silly old NHS and its daft universal coverage. But you have to hand it to the dictionary boffins for catching the zeitgeist : HMOs like Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth Group are flavour of the month with Big Al, and are coming soon to at least nine primary care trusts near you. In a supportive and developmental way, of course.

Also appearing in the dictionary for the first time is 'bedblocking'. Of course, the term bedblocking is no longer de riguer , having lost out to the tasteful 'delayed discharge', the more recent 'delayed transfer of care' or the very incentivising 'that'll be£100 a day, please'. But Monitor was delighted to see the words that matter to NHS managers being shared with language fans everywhere. Now even those who have never themselves felt the pain of zero-star status can learn the true meaning of 'name and shame' - just by looking it up.

Finally, a return to Fluffy the cat, pictured in HSJ last month after being nominated as 'employee of the year' at Whipps Cross University Hospital trust. Eagle-eyed PR consultant Dan Levene writes to Monitor to point out that Fluffy was the subject of correspondence in the Leyton and Leytonstone Guardian . The paper's report 'does not do full justice to the said Ms Fluffy who clearly fulfils the role of a (not so modern) matron', claims John Beanse on the Guardian letters page. 'I have been very honoured to be granted some personal audiences on some of my visits, so from my conversations with her I can definitely vouch for her dedication and commitment, ' the letter concludes. Incidentally, says Dan, Mr Beanse is chief officer of Waltham Forest community health council.