The Sketch: How dentists prove hereditary principle is alive under Labour

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The Independent Online

Arriving a little late, the first thing I heard in Health questions was "the Chief Genital Officer". Why had we not heard of this character before? A truly national health service has to have Genital Officers. Who else sets the genital access targets? Who is monitoring the roll-out of targeted genital interventions and calling a halt to the postcode lottery in genital outreach? And (technical question): if podiatrists vote with their feet, how do genital officers manage? And is that why we have secret ballots?

Arriving a little late, the first thing I heard in Health questions was "the Chief Genital Officer". Why had we not heard of this character before? A truly national health service has to have Genital Officers. Who else sets the genital access targets? Who is monitoring the roll-out of targeted genital interventions and calling a halt to the postcode lottery in genital outreach? And (technical question): if podiatrists vote with their feet, how do genital officers manage? And is that why we have secret ballots?

Andrew Lansley - health spokesman for something called "the Conservative party" - criticised the Government for their treatment of the Chief Dental Officer. All right, I'd misheard. I need one of their digital hearing aids (and that's another thing).

Mr Lansley recalled the last Health questions when the Government had assured us the dentists were on the very point of signing up to the new, shiny, patient-centred, choice-rich, generous course of investment - three hours later the dentists staged a mass walk-out, blaming the Government for running the industry into the ground.

Children can't get onto an NHS list any more unless their parents are on one. It's refreshing to find the hereditary principle alive and well under New Labour.

The trouble is, Mr Lansley insisted, dentists don't want NHS patients. It is a terrible mess. Rosie Winterton countered for the Government: "And whose fault is that?" (Laughter on both sides, for different reasons.) Ms Winterton doesn't have the executive ability to make anything so structured as a mess. No, it was the Tories fault, for something they did in 1992.

More rubbish from Melanie Johnson, Minister for Public Health, who explained how keeping the pubs open 24 hours a day was a key part of the Alcohol Reduction Strategy. Or maybe she didn't explain it at all, it comes to the same. She was going to clamp down on "the disorderly aspects of binge drinking" by putting warnings on bottles and having more education in schools and better guidance for professionals and a "new 'sensible drinking' message".

John Reid's rubbish is much higher quality than this. He said there had been 450,000 extra operations since the Government started spending all this money. Budget doubles, operations go up 10 per cent. Is that money well spent? Is that a £35bn success?

We don't want to impugn Dr Reid's integrity (he's touchy about that). So when he goes on about local people being better able to make decisions about local services, we don't go into a disorderly binge of howling, bruising, puking criticism.

We need only report David Hinchliffe's point. He noted that for all the talk about local people running local services, his own hospital had just heard its boss was sacked by the regulator, and management consultants had been drafted in from New York ("not exactly local people", Mr Hinchliffe mused, quite unhelpfully, people thought, considering he chairs the health select committee).

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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