Party politics has resumed after the summer break, and former senior Labour ministers have headed straight for the NHS.

Former health secretary Andy Burnham has urged Liberal Democrat MPs to oppose coalition government proposals for NHS restructuring, and Lord Prescott has launched an online petition to “save NHS Direct”.

News broke on Friday that the telephone triage helpline was under threat, accompanied by bank holiday headlines such as BBC online’s “Government confirms plan to scrap NHS Direct helpline”. It turned out the government was actually saying it planned to replace it with its 111 urgent care service.

The Scotsman reported Lord Prescott’s fondness for NHS Direct goes beyond political affiliation. He used it on Christmas Day in 2006 when suffering with kidney stones and apparently was very satisfied with the service he received, the paper said.

Mr Burnham, an outside contender for the Labour Party leadership, has written to all Liberal Democrat MPs urging them to oppose what he describes as a “radical break-up plan” of the NHS, reported The Guardian on Monday.

The paper said Mr Burnham wants the Liberal Democrats to start a public debate on the government’s reforms.

John Pugh, Liberal Democrat co-chair of the coalition’s backbench committee on health, told The Guardian it would be “unthinkable” if the health white paper was not extensively debated at the party’s conference later this month.

The Daily Mail reported the NHS’s financial difficulties are being exacerbated by the artificially high prices it pays for equipment it uses in orthopaedic surgery that are exactly the same as common or garden DIY equipment.

Talking anonymously, a medical sales representative discussed his “used car sales” techniques for selling screws that cost 20p in a DIY store to NHS trusts for up to £100 each.

The rep claimed the only difference with the screws used in orthopaedic surgery is that they are slightly finer, and sterilised.