Monitor wouldn't wish to suggest anyone was panicking about the millennium bug, but when hospitals start sinking their own wells to ensure continued water supplies 'just in case', there must be something going on. Northwick Park Hospital communications manager Brian Goodinson says the idea does hold other attractions, even if Thames Water doesn't run dry at the end of the year. For a start, it will save on the water rates. But so far, no firm decisions have been made. And, yes, Monitor has to report that Mr Goodinson really did say of the proposed borehole that managers were 'looking into it'.
Nice to see that trust chairs in Wales are now so representative of the population as a whole. Assuming, of course, that everyone west of Offa's Dyke is a man in late middle age. It takes real political courage to go for positive discrimination in such a big way.
You have to hand it to politicians, though. When they decide to rehabilitate their public image, they really go to town. First, Tony Blair saves a fellow holidaymaker from drowning (presumably by walking across the waves). Now, Tory health spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe is revealed as an angel of mercy who feeds the Westminster homeless on Big Macs and advises them on claiming social security. 'Is Ann Britain's new saint?' asks the Independent on Sunday. And to give its reporters their due, they managed more than a one-word answer.
On the other hand, don't expect anything more than some pretty terse answers out of John Denham for some time to come. Monitor understands that, with political foresight that does him credit, our new health minister packed up smoking a matter of days before Tony Blair gave him the call. Time to expand on that policy of making nicotine patches available on the NHS?
Just don't ask a politician to do sums. 'There are four key areas in which action needs to be taken to enable health and social services to work together...' says last week's health select committee report. Which duly goes on to list five points. Still, since every numbered paragraph reference in the entire document is also wrong, at least it has the virtue of consistency.
They should have put Helen Mirren in charge of publicity. As Monitor's extensive picture collection reveals (left), the DoH's new director of communications and amateur dramatics enthusiast is a deadringer for well- known actress Helen McCallum, star of Prime Suspects I to V, The Madness of King George and, of course, the 1997 not-quite blockbuster Critical Care.
Sticking with the world of entertainment, Monitor was recently chilling out to Libby Purves on Radio Four's Midweek, when who should come on the radio but Sporty Spice's mum. So what, you may ask. Well, it turns out that Ma Spice is a hospital administrator - or at least was until her own musical career took off. She now fronts a Tina Turner tribute band. Alas, all attempts to find out where she works or to secure pictures from her agent have come to naught. The search goes on.
A new peril lurks for travel insurers. Manchester-based Primary Direct reports that Viagra's popularity has led to a spate of cases in which it had to repatriate 'gents who'd overdosed on the drug and were left in a rather embarrassing and painful state'. Company spokesman Tim Berry wishes he hadn't mentioned it, though. By the time the story had migrated from the Daily Sport to The Daily Telegraph, the company had repatriated an entirely mythical 12-strong party of sex tourists from Thailand, provoking a deluge of media interest. 'I even had one call from a television company in Germany wanting to make a documentary,' says a bemused Mr Berry.
You read it here first...
'Fewer than half the clinical indicators promised by ministers last year have been included in revamped NHS league tables published this week.
'Measures for hospital-acquired infections, a range of surgical complications, and deaths in hospital following surgery - which were promised by the then health minister, Baroness Jay, in July 1997 - are all missing.'
HSJ, 10 December 1998
'The much trumpeted NHS league tables have turned out to be very incomplete. More than half the 'clinical indicators' promised by then health minister Baroness Jay in July 1997 have not appeared. Measures of hospital-acquired infections, a range of surgical complications and deaths in hospital after surgery are also absent.'
Private Eye, 8 January 1999