Monitor is delighted to hear of a planned VIP visit to London by Sir Bernard Tomlinson. Apparently the man who reviewed the capital's health service back in 1992 was 'delighted' when the idea was put to him, and former London Implementation Group boss Bob Nicholls is currently canvassing for volunteers to offer a bit of hospitality on the day. In a letter doing the rounds of London chief executives, the old LIGer writes: 'I thought it might best take the form of an escorted tour by car for Sir Bernard and Lady Tomlinson, passing by some of the developments and calling in to meet one or two of you'. Sir Bernard's report, you may recall, advocated closing Bart's, the Middlesex, Guy's, the Royal Brompton, the Marsden, Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Queen Charlotte's, St Mark's, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases... 'For obvious reasons, it would be a private and low-key visit,' the letter suggests. Can't think why.
But would any of these august institutions have been aesthetically acceptable to our present health secretary? Visiting the admittedly fortress-like Barbican Centre recently, he mused: 'This place fails the Dobson test of architecture, which is that a building should have a readily discernible front door.'
Just like the famous 10 Downing Street entrance, in fact. Displaying all the signs of a man who sees his place in history beckoning, Dobbo enthused over NHS Direct's 97 per cent satisfaction rating. 'It can only be modestly described as a brilliant success,' he crowed. 'As I was saying to the prime minister only the other day, even your rating isn't that high.' Hmm, any more comments like that and Monitor fears Dobbo could discover whether Number 10 has a readily discernible exit.
Naturally, Monitor would be bereft should any such misfortune happen. But it might make space at the top for Unison London region convenor Geoff Martin. The poor chap thought 20 years as a trade union and Labour activist, eight years as a councillor, three years as a hospital porter, his record at London Health Emergency and experience running for Parliament might impress the party big-wigs drawing up a shortlist of candidates for the Greater London Authority. Alas, in what he calls 'a polite little letter', they turned him down for his lack of 'life experience'.
Across the pond, meanwhile, ex-hospital chief executive officer Jim Blackmon is getting a whole new life experience. The former Southeast Alabama Medical Center boss has been jailed for three years after being convicted of stealing more than $350,000 from his employers, and masking the illegal payments with a stream of false receipts. So what did he do with the swag? Lead a life of luxury and debauchery? No sirree. Blackmon told the court he spent much of it on illegal campaign contributions to local politicians.
Back in morally spotless Westminster, Tory MP Teresa Gorman stuck her head round the door of health service union MSF's lobby meeting on pay, clocked the numbers present and ducked out to summon shadow health secretary Ann Widdecombe. 'Ann,' she was heard to say, 'there are a lot of people in white coats from the health service here. You'd better come down and see them.' Sing along now: 'They're coming to take me away, ha ha...'
As well-rounded individuals, Monitor readers will, of course, already know that British Sandwich Week begins on Sunday. All the more distressing, then, is the sad news that the home-made sarnies of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service snack service at Withybush Hospital are, after 20 years' loyal fundraising service, brown bread. Distraught staff tried buttering up the Pembrokeshire hospital's managers to get the decision reversed, but were told to use their loaf: the decision rests with the WRVS, on whose behalf a crusty spokeswoman blames hygiene regulations. In future, she says, all sandwiches will have to come pre-packed to protect volunteers from the threat of litigation should they accidentally poison their customers.
Given that Ronald McDonald is nearly as litigious as Mickey Mouse, Monitor would like to make clear that such an accusation could never be levelled at McDonald's. Indeed, it turns out that everyone's favourite clown is a great friend of the NHS, and has recently agreed not only to allow East Anglian Ambulance trust to use its outlets as stand-by posts, but to provide free drinks and use of its toilets to paramedics. Apparently the trust has had a similar arrangement for some time with Little Chef. That's the one whose logo shows a man sticking two fingers down his throat.