Maybe it was the autumnal August Bank Holiday weather that meant the national media largely looked at health through a gloomy lens this week.

The Daily Mail warned that the “health service pays spin doctors more than cancer experts”, reporting that primary care trusts and strategic health authorities had spent £182m on their communications departments over the last four years.

The story, which also appeared online in the Telegraph, was based on a Freedom of Information Act request by an unnamed source – although Tory MP for Bracknell Phillip Lee and the TaxPayers’ Alliance were quoted heavily in both reports.

The Mail on Sunday conjured up a row over new “do not disturb” tabards for nurses doing drugs rounds at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust. The paper reported: “Fury over nurses’ uniforms that ban patients from trying to speak to them.”

The Guardian reported claims from the Rarer Cancers Fund that a “devastating divide” had opened up over access to cancer drugs. It also reported on legal advice given to the 38 Degrees campaign, suggesting the health secretary would still be able to “wash his hands” of the NHS, despite the amendments to the Health Bill.

Good or bad news depending on where you stand, the Financial Times reported a “slump” in NHS support for homeopathy. It said homeopathy prescriptions had crashed from 134,000 in 2000 to just 16,359 in 2010.

A ray of hope was provided by the Times which – based on an interview with NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh – said patients would be able to consult doctors over the internet “as part of a technological revolution”.

But this was tempered by a Times report that a “new super strain” of bird flu was making a comeback in Europe.