Health secretary Andrew Lansley this week announced an end to mixed sex wards in the NHS, prompting an outbreak of ennui.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Lansley’s pledge came just 14 years after the previous Labour government’s manifesto pledge to “work towards” the elimination of Nightingale wards, and The Mirror quoted former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham claiming that the work had already been “pretty much done”.

Around 10 per cent of NHS wards are now mixed sex. The Telegraph quoted Patients Association spokeswoman Katherine Murphy, who doubted whether eliminating them entirely would be a top priority for the cash strapped NHS.

“Given that each incoming secretary of state has made exactly this same pledge since 1997, we will wait to see if it is more than just rhetoric,” she said.

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said NHS managers were likely to conclude they simply did not have the money to do the work.

He said: “Mixed sex wards are no longer the great political issue they once were.”

Another old favourite, the cost of private finance initiative hospitals, reappeared with data collated by the BBC that put the total bill for England at £65bn.

Writing in The Guardian, Alan Maynard called the schemes a “magnificent wheeze” that had “bamboozled” hospitals’ local populations and the “international financial community” into believing public sector borrowing was lower than it is.

The local relevance of PFI was an opportunity for local politicians to wade in on a similar theme.

Newcastle’s The Journal quoted a prominent local retired GP, and parliamentary candidate, who said people in the region had “been done” by PFI. They were, he said, a “political Arthur Daley job”.