Monitor can't understand who gave the Impotence Association his name and address, particularly in these times of heightened security. But sure as eggs are eggs, this week's One in Ten, its entertaining and informative newsletter, landed on Monitor's desk, in what surely must have been an administrative cock-up. Still, One in Ten (and the figure is bound to be higher in senior management) is jam-packed full of titbits about a condition which only an insensitive old blunderbuss would make limp jokes about.
One in Ten offers a wealth of riches - including 12 factsheets for the price of a stamp. But factsheet number two, for female partners of sufferers, had Monitor rushing for his pocket encyclopedia. Its title - 'Would a woman recognise the signs?' - suggests levels of naivety among the fairer sex may have reached an all-time high. Or perhaps expectations have dropped.
Not at NHS Estates, though, which appears to be a hot-bed of unconventional group practices of a sexual nature. In a letter sent to primary care trusts and health authorities, South East region and NHS Estates attempted to find out who is taking responsibility for a range of areas. Here's the list in full: clinical waste, controls assurance, disability discrimination act, decontamination, ERIC (estates return information collection) estates and facilities, fire safety and statutory safety, fire code, better hospital food, MCP forms, ministerial correspondence, mixed sex, PEAT (patient environment action team), property sales and ward housekeeper.
The letter found its way into the hands of Bournewood Community and Mental Health trust, from where director of human resources Sally Storey explained: 'While we had individual lead directors for most of the items listed, we all wanted to be involved in mixed sex, but not with ERIC or PEAT because we didn't know who they were.' Girls, girls!
Speaking of contact with the outside world, Monitor didn't know what to make of an e-mail sent from Chinahawk Enterprises Ltd and forwarded on from Unison's health group. Subject:
Disposable Body Bags and Protective Clothing. It is a piece of tact and beauty: 'In view of the current world wide situation, we are encouraging our current and future customers to review our website at www. chinahawk. net and review our protective clothing and body bags for emergency medical services, police, government agencies, industry and hospitals... in addition, we have moved our office to larger facilities.'
Monitor hasn't got the hang of being modern yet, and occasionally wonders if he's getting a bit too old for it. Wondering if this was a general problem, he thought it might be useful to telephone the Modernisation Agency for some advice. How oldfashioned! It turns out that the telephone is 'so last century', therefore the Modernisation Agency doesn't exactly have a general telephone number.
Yet. Or, as its press officer clarified, it probably does have a telephone number somewhere but doesn't have a person to pick up the phone exactly.
Monitor remembers his early days as a cub reporter, when fierce, and often hairy, news editors would explain that 'dog bites man' is not a story - while 'man bites dog' is. It was good advice too, though in the conceptual world of health policy 'man bites primary care trust' or indeed 'primary care trust bites man' do not have the same ring. Nonetheless, H S J 's news desk keeps the principle in mind, which is why just two weeks ago Monitor poured scorn on the attention-seeking efforts of the National Care Standards Commission and 'consultants' Butcher and Gundersen. Regular readers with sturdier than average concentration levels may remember their lengthy press release, describing in detail the typography of NCSC's new logo (see left). They probably picked up Monitor's underlying concern that the typographical details of the logo were 'not conventionally interesting'. Monitor wondered, indeed, if the expectations of the NCSC and their consultants that this would be seen as 'news' were somewhat out of step with reality.
Turned out not: the story has a happy ending. While the newspapers were full of dull stories about terrorist bin-liners, Community Care went to town on the orphan story nobody wanted. Indeed, in an article John Pilger might have been proud of, it quoted vast chunks of the very press release which Monitor had pilloried. And That is not all. Comm Care also noted new logos from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (which 'opted for a more literal approach' by - erm - just printing the words) 'while the General Social Care Council spells out its title emphasising 'social care' in bold' (both pictured).
That is enough, reckons Monitor.