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Editorial Wednesday 7 November 2012: Health Policy Intelligence 51 - I'm A Health Secretary? Get Me Out Of Here!

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Health Policy Intelligence Issue 51 – 6 November 2012

I’m A Health Secretary? Get Me Out Of Here!

Welcome to the latest edition of Health Policy Intelligence, the analysis and summary of the key events in policy by Health Policy Insight editor Andy Cowper.
editorial@healthpolicyinsight.com / www.Twitter.com/HPIAndyCowper

There are days when writing semi-humorous stuff on the subject of politics (which is what health policy is, with a vengeance) seems moderately worthwhile.

There are also days when it seems gobsmackingly redundant. Today is one of the latter kind, with the revelation that Conservative dingbat MP, ex-nurse and former health select committee member Nadine Dorries is going on ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!’ It would be funny enough on its own, were it not for the fact that her alleged reasons for going in relate to promoting her views on abortion, or for greater contact with her constituents. Her local voters must be flattered to know she reckons they form their political views in the jungle. Blue in tooth and claw?

Jeremy ‘Bellflinger’ Hunt had an uncomfortable self-harm moment when at a reception to celebrate the Olympic athletes’ success, he made a major mistake with Her Majesty The Queen, when he attempted to make a joke about the very Olympic opening ceremony from which he had tried to get the NHS material cut.

Oh yes he did. The Bellflinger congratulated Her Maj on her helicopter parachute ‘jump’ with James Bond, adding "I read about a Japanese tourist who said afterwards how wonderful our Queen must be to take part in that as they would never get their emperor to jump out of the plane".

The Telegraph reports that there followed “a brief 'tumbleweed' moment as the Queen smiled and shrugged her shoulders politely as she turned and moved on. The still smiling minister was then approached by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, who in typically blunt fashion, asked him ‘who are you?’.” This indignity was previously reserved for anonymity-prone reconfiguration refusenik and former Lib Dem health minister Paul ‘Who?’ Burstow.

Still, at least Mr Hunt now has a new adviser to sack in the event that things get tricky – Sam Talbot Rice, about whom we wrote here. It didn’t seem to unduly help The Bellflinger with his debut session of health questions in the Commons, which was shorter of highlights than a hairdressers before a 1980s revival night.

Pictures of Mr Hunt depict a mildly manic cast to his eyes, and it is not difficult to imagine The Bellflinger thinking, in the shallow recesses of his head alongside his dreams of News Corp NEDship, “I’m a Health Secretary? Get me out of here!”

And how are other ministers coming along? Clearly, the absence of the legendary Simon Burns, while serving as Transport’s immeasurable gain, rips a hole in the fabric of health policy. However, junior minister Dr Daniel Poulter is coming along nicely, as he showed the world precisely how much clothing you need to remove to get a flu jab in this splendid picture. D100 is clearly bracing himself to get heckles for a performance of ‘the pecs dance’, which could be to his career what The David Brent Dance has been to Ricky Gervais.

What of the real power in NHSland? Comrade Sir David Nicholson is very well, thank you, and told the NAPC conference that CQUIN incentives will rise from a puny 2.5% of tariff to a mighty 5%. Wow. That’s The Nicholson Challenge sorted then. But uncharacteristically, the Comrade-In-Chief also reportedly said that he wants to avoid “nationalisation” of CQUIN. Presumably he prefers to think of it as collectivisation.

The Comrade-In-Chief or a close colleague had briefed HSJ that the liberation of CCGs was to be guaranteed by the NHSCB forcing them into “bespoke” conditions of authorisation, and make them work with centrally appointed groups of doctors on reconfiguration programmes. Truly, Comrade Sir David liberates like an eyewitness.

This riled NHS Clinical Commissioners interim chair Dr Charles Alessi, who was “concerned how the NHS Commissioning Board may use its powers to impose conditions on CCGs during the authorisation process. At the most severe these allow the Board to remove all of a CCGs (sic) functions while others could permit the Board to effectively neuter a CCG by giving central sign off or approval of the CCG’s decisions ...

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