Neither a borrower nor a statistician be, as old Ma Monitor used to say, back in the days when poisson statistics were more likely to be found drowning in garlic in a French bistro than troubling a health policy publication. That was before clinical indicators and balanced score cards became the order of the day. Ever since Milburn got stars in his eyes, Monitor has been doing his best to get to the bottom of this thing they call performance (not that Monitor has had any problems in that department, as Mrs Monitor will confirm).
Now, one thing Monitor has learnt over the years is that anything that looks a bit like a league table definitely isn t one, because that s what the government always says. And when lists of hospitals come out and they happen to be ordered in terms of best and worst, the important thing is not to think of them in that way. Mortality rates especially don t mean very much. All they tell you is how many people die in hospital which is much less important than one might think, apparently, and ought to be weighted (so the deaths of less important people count for less, or something like that).
Which wasn t too complicated. But then there was CHI and then traffic lights which became stars, and then it turned out that a bad CHI report could be worth up to two stars and it all got complicated again. Which left Monitor with a big question: if the department of stealth and world of clinical governance can t even agree on the definition of what makes a hospital not very good, who can we trust to judge the quality of NHS healthcare?
Stand up the Daily Mail , whose distinguished panel of judges is, as we speak, scanning nominations sent in by readers to find eight NHS heroes.
Monitor suggests that the combined talents of Des Lynam, Lynda Lee-Potter, ex-Holby City star Lisa Faulkner, Esther Rantzen, Jan Leeming, Fern Britton, Lynn Faulds Wood and Claire Rayner could just as easily sort out star ratings in a jiffy, and have clinical governance in their grasp by lunch time.