Monitor has been much struck of late by Joe McCrae's charming new persona. Whisper who dares, but sources (as we journos put it) suggest that Dobbo's formidable enforcer may have gone just a little bit native down in Whitehall. Perhaps he has been reading his job description. It is a fascinating document, and so easily obtained from the Cabinet Office (Simmera Hussain at firstname.lastname@example.org will gladly send you a copy if you ask). Take, for example, schedule 1 (part 1), the role and duties of special advisers: 'Special advisers must not take part in public controversy... must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, and avoid personal attacks.' It might have been written with him in mind.
Not that it is worth the effort for special advisers to go native when their hold on employment is so precarious. Apparently, not only will Joe lose his job 'at the end of the present administration' (of which there is admittedly little immediate danger), but also when his boss moves on, within 24 hours of polling day, if he becomes 'publicly identified' as an election candidate, or even 'in order to take part in a general, European or by-election campaign or to help in a party headquarters or research unit during such an election'. Furthermore, the contract points out, 'because of the power of the Crown to dismiss at will you are not entitled to a period of notice terminating your employment'. Sad really.
It brings back the days when people used to talk worriedly about NHS chief executives having about as much job security as a premier league football manager. Speaking of which, Monitor is a bit concerned about that Mike Fry. The man who picks the team at Manchester's Christie Hospital trust has a new chair - and it's former footie boss Arthur Sandford, the man who, in a two-year stint as Football League chief executive from 1990- 92 really did rewrite the rule book. So no doubt he's a keen fan of hospital league tables, and it's good news for whistle-blowers and strikers - but let's not forget it's a game of two halves, and anyone who can't explain the application of the offside rule to trust mergers faces the red card. Not literally red, of course, since he has no declarable political affiliations - unlike outgoing chair and former Tory MP John Lee. Who must be sick as a parrot. (That's enough football cliches - Ed).
OK, OK. Moving on, Monitor is delighted to bring news from the cutting edge of dental practice. Yorkshire dentist David Pulman has installed a£600 visor and headphones in his Bingley surgery to take patients' minds off things by allowing them to watch television while he gets on with the job (see left). Apparently the only problem came when one patient let out a roar of pain during the world snooker championships. When the alarmed dentist asked what had happened, his patient pulled off the goggles and told him: 'Jimmy White's just missed the pink.'
As promised, Monitor has been back in touch with North Derbyshire health authority anti-smoking supremo Elen Rees to find out whether her brave efforts have saved more animals from the dangers of passive smoking (see Monitor, 15 April). Alas, despite putting out a plea on local radio for further shaggy dog stories of the 'I gave up smoking and my pet got a new lease of life' variety, nothing has been forthcoming. 'Well, you've got to try,' she says, promising to get back in touch should any good tales reach her.
Thankfully, Chester and Halton Community trust's head bean-counter, David Ellcock, has come back to Monitor with a fresh report on Sporty Spice's mum. 'I met Joan O'Neill while on trust business recently and I am now the proud owner of a signed photograph of Mel C,' he confides. But he has taken the mission set for him by Monitor seriously. 'It's disappointing to have to report that Mrs O'Neill was not in her Tina Turner gear, but in rather more sober working clothes,' he says. 'Joan's boss, Jean Hutfield, speaks very highly of her, particularly of the work she did in helping to set up a young persons' family planning and advisory clinic in the Halton area. Her time is spent more regularly on reception at one of our clinics, or beavering away on a word processor.' And he promises: 'If there's any more news you'll be the first to know.'
Finally, Monitor is delighted to see South Manchester University Hospitals trust has decided to enter into a 'rolling contract' for wheelchairs. Well, what else?