Bouncer Milburn has always been a role model for Monitor. And the news that he said 'NO' to feng-shui was all it took for Monitor to realise the new-age pendulum had swung too far. Reverberations of Mr Milburn's brave stand were felt all over the silly season scrum, with BBC news, Radio 4 and the Financial Times falling over themselves to analyse the story. For those who missed it: so-called feng-shui 'experts' were called in to examine the layout of his private office. Officials realised it might cause a bit of a PR gaffe, so dropped the plans. Or, as the FT's Rosemary Bennett reported: 'Feng-shui, which Cherie Blair once used to maximise space in her family's modest Downing Street flat, is now threatening to invade the fustier corners of Whitehall- In the end, despite the popularity of feng-shui with the boss's wife, Mr Milburn decided taxpayers' money would be better spent on clearing hospitals of overcrowded wards than ridding his office of energy-blocking filing cabinets, ' the psychic hackette wrote.
But if feng-shui is not a terribly manly sort of thing, where does that leave complementary medicine? Monitor has done some research, and knows that wind chimes and aromatherapy are two sides of the same aura. If Mr Milburn thinks feng-shui is wet, where does he stand on the use of echinachea? And what about acupuncture? Monitor is well aware that his fave GP, Dr Michael Dixon, of the NHS Alliance, is more 'alternative' than most, peppering conversation with liberal use of the word 'holistic'. Monitor never was very good at spotting rifts, but wondered if - on a 'no news' day - Milburn's anti feng-shui platform could be seen as a dig at the NHS Alliance (which is awfully good at feeling slighted).
Normally, It is the Confed which pains the Alliance with its bragging, just because It is got more than a handful of members in primary care.
Speaking of which, the shock news that Stephen Thornton is to leave the Confed for pastures richer is beginning to sink in. Over the years, Monitor has enjoyed observing the fortunes of the Confed, and the ordinary honest folk who lead it. He has been particularly inspired by the story of Stephen, who recently shed his beard to reveal the face of a gawky 19-year-old. The tale of Stephen's coiffure may have inspired many a manager to reveal their naked chin. But It is only now that Monitor can share his haircare secret: Vince, the mobile hairdresser, who dances attendance on Stephen at his lovely Cambridgeshire home.
Now fab news from the Independent on Sunday! The NHS is to recruit housewives as board members, reversing the current ban on women with headscarf tendencies to become non-executive directors, Monitor presumes. 'Housewives will be among the people that ministers want to recruit for the first time as paid 'trustees' to provide a powerful new voice for their neighbourhoods on trusts run by family boards or faceless hospital managers, ' the intellectual broadsheet explains. Monitor is disturbed. Beardless policymakers are one thing, but are some among you faceless? Have you come across a faceless wonder, or, worse still, are you suffering from the condition yourself? Perhaps you are a shadow primary care trust chief executive or have at one time been part of a skeleton staff? If so, alert Monitor now.
Monitor's e-mail inbox was flashing away this morning: news hot in from one Richard Jones, who has been having fun with his spell-checker while the NHS burns (only joking, Rich)!
He notes in Shifting the Balance that strategic health authorities are to be known as StHAs.
'Your readership might care to know that a standard spell-checker offers the writer 'stash' and 'sham' instead.'
And finally, whatever anybody else says, Monitor is Professor Rory Shaw's number one fan. The former medical director of Hammersmith Hospitals trust is to head the National Patient Safety Agency, the body which will bring in a national system for reporting cock-ups and nearmisses in a no-blamish sort of way. But what's this? Fears that admitting weakness might not come naturally to Professor Shaw were confirmed at his photo-call last week. Sources couldn't help but notice that he was 'one of the worst control freaks' they had ever chanced upon, demanding only to be photographed in one position and even instructing one snapper on where to place his tripod. Transparency, anyone?