Monitor prides himself on his humility. If nothing else, he knows when to say sorry. And perhaps It is time to look back to some of the claims made against our friends at the Department of Health. The army of press officers have come under attack over the years for various mishaps and difficulties answering questions that really could have happened to anyone. But Monitor has learnt a lot from the NHS 'noblame' culture. So It is time to forget about the teensy cock-ups and cruel jibes and focus on the good practice they offer. In the past, the cruder hacks and hackettes on HSJ's newsdesk have wondered how its well-oiled communications machine would perform, should it, for example, be asked to run a (ahem) 'piss-up in a brewery'. Monitor took the reporters to task, pointing out that the complex problems of an ever-rolling communication network are hardly akin to those of the hospitality industry.
Nonetheless, Monitor knows how to party (oh yes! ) and was delighted to be invited to celebratory drinks to meet the new ministerial team. Even before entering Richmond House, Monitor stumbled on what seemed to be a leather-clad Hazel Blears. Not to worry, the motorcycle courier in question was remarkably up-to-date on the latest twists and turns in emergency care. Still, onwards to the real stars. And what a bunch of performers they were! As Madonna strutted her stuff in nearby Earl's Court, Mr Milburn - her senior by just a year, fact fans - enraptured devotees (sorry, journalists) who were delighted to hear he would soon be off on hols to Disneyland. Nearby, Darren Murphy - fresh from being called an insolent young pup by our friends at The Grauniad - revealed plans to explore the pyramids in Egypt. In another corner, that nice Mr Hutton (who has a constituency in sunny Cumbria) was heard to get slightly flustered on the topic of what ministers could do to support England's beleaguered tourist industry. And NHS honcho Nigel Crisp hovered nervously nearby, revealing little of his holiday plans - indeed, revealing very little.
But enough of matters ministerial - for it was those minions of the Department of Health meedja centre who won the party animal prize, unveiling a plethora of strings to their bows. Why, when they were not turning up the Stone Roses soundtrack (the minxy young hoodlums! ) while Monitor was attempting to talk to very important people, they were displaying a veritable troupe of young boys who were most adept at keeping one's glass topped up. Monitor could only presume the DoH had purloined tax payer's money to afford such class. But no, it turned out the charming young team were nearly as good at pouring drinks as they are at answering phones! Well done, chaps.
That was just the start, though. The real fun started when the ministers left, the lights dimmed, the chain-smokers abandoned all pretence at manners, and the dancefloor awakened to the sounds of Abba's classic Dancing Queen. If his dicky back hadn't been playing up, Monitor would have joined the young 'uns. Instead, he made his excuses and left.
But tongues are still wagging after this month's other funtastic event - of course, We are talking about the confed. There, one NHS manager was overheard to take an almost pompous tone, cursing the fact he had been forced to queue for - ooh - three minutes, while waiting to register his attendance. His loud-mouthed remark caught the attention of one young scamp, heard to retort: 'And how long are your waiting lists, then?'
Speaking of performance (no not that, Monitor is determined to keep this column clean), disappointing news just in from the chief execs' bulletin. Trusts expecting to get their traffic-light rating this month will have to hang on until September to find out if they are red, green or yellow! Or possibly fuchsia. Or cerise. Yep, That is right, a fourth category is to be introduced 'for organisations we are worried about but who are not red'.
Monitor wondered why on earth top bods at the department of stealth would get nervy on the topic of red-lighting. It makes one wonder just who risked ending up red-faced.