Some among you (not Monitor, who is happy to be bailed out by the beautifully carpeted sector in times of crisis) say not-so-nice things about the NHS's partners in private medicine.

Monitor would remind you that if charging for your services is good enough for the world's oldest profession, then it is surely good enough for healthcare. But the latest edition of Independent Healthcare Association Acute News makes alarming reading. 'Ouch! That hurt!' - shouts the headline to a picture of a frightened small child outnumbered by ginger-haired professionals in mufti (see left). 'Game for a laugh' jeers the caption, despite the fact that the young girl appears to be in state of some trauma, while the only games are in the minds of the surrounding health profiteers. No, the jury is out on the attempts of surgeons from Benenden Hospital in Kent to make children 'feel less uneasy' by throwing their white gowns away.

Meanwhile, that nice Mr Blair has caused a right kerfuffle over what he may have said or not said on Sunday morning TV. Monitor found his pledge - to absolutely definitely give lots and lots of doolally to the NHS (as long our luck doesn't run out and Gordon comes round) - perfectly clear. Now our attractive prime minister has had a helluva lot of bad press of late. So here is patient- in-a-million Joan Birtwisle from Northwich in Cheshire to set the record straight. 'I thought the prime minister was unfairly treated by David Frost on the state of the NHS and I wrote to him to say so, ' says the redoubtable Joan.

It was kind, too, of those neutral civil servants of the NHS Executive's North West regional office to bring Joan's views to the attention of the national media. Their press release about health minister John Hutton's visit to Christie Hospital in Manchester enlarges further on Joan's treatment - which 'couldn't be better, ' since you ask. Since the model patient was the only one whose views were put under the media glare, Monitor can only presume that her views reflected those of everyone else in the hospital - and indeed the world.

Speaking of things spindoctorish, the NHS PCG Alliance has embarked on a new media strategy by issuing national executive members with bleeps - 'not to keep them on message, but simply to find out if they are still alive, ' reassures Monitor's fave GP, Mike Dixon. Sadly for Dr Mike, the day of the alliance's launch saw his pager bleep its last, as it skidded under the wheels of his offsprings' school bus. It was the beginning of one of his less successful days, which ended with his home's heating system exploding on the coldest night of the year.

As the season of self-improvement gives way, time to cheer up all those dyed-in-the-wool (or should that be died-in-the-wool? ) nicotine addicts out there. Forest continues to promote equal rights for smokers with its Good Egg awards. And the NHS is doing its bit: Springfield Hospital's Dr Mike Beranek lands a gong for his attack on the 'bully-boy tactics' of No Smoking Day, while Leicester's Glenfield Hospital - renowned for its cancer centre - gets a plaudit for providing special cabins for smokers while the designated rooms were being re-painted. Judges included Forest's chair Lord Harris of High Cross, the kindly fellow who ran sleazster Neil Hamilton's appeal fund.

Finally, it's been a while since the Institute of Health Services Management and the Association of Managers in General Practice became one broad church. And what a heavenly creature their successor is. Monitor is no techno whizz, but efforts to find the Institute of Healthcare Management on the net brought your plucky columnist swiftly into the fold. 'Come inside and join us, ' beckons the home page at www. ihm. org, enticing potential members with a list of upcoming events. These include a family sock hop - which offers free soft pretzels, hot dogs, root beer floats and soda. But what's this? The listings warn that there will be no tickets at the door - because 'it's sure to be a sell-out.' This doesn't sound like the IHM Monitor knows and loves. A closer look reveals that the site is in fact the home of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic church, in Delaware, over in the US of A.

Over at the real IHM, www. ihm. org. uk offers its own treats: the events programme includes seminars on building partnerships, clinical governance and the like. Not quite up to sock hop standards, but nice try. Its press room is slightly less enticing. It promises copies of all the latest press releases at the touch of a button; yet there are none. Further digging finds them hidden away in a different section. Keep up the good work, chaps!