'As soon as the SS Rest and Relaxation draws near another port, you can see groups of slightly anxious-looking passengers veering to the landward side of the vessel and proclaiming: 'Houston, we have a signal!''

As if it were written in stone, as an immutable law of the NHS, something always happens just as you're looking forward to getting away from it all on summer holiday.

It really goes down well with the family, as you search for a mobile phone signal in the back of beyond, instead of savouring the delights of their company and the cultural attractions you've all come to see.

Two years ago, we had.Commissioning A Patient-Led NHS preying on our minds during the summer months. Last year, the newly reorganised primary care trusts' chief executives.had to map out their directorates and sort out the rest of the furniture, ready to do business in the autumn.

This summer, what will the 'Brown factor' bring to the NHS table? I don't suppose he'll put his feet up for the summer. No newly installed prime minister has yet done so. Ever since John F Kennedy.gave the lead from across the big pond, 'the first hundred days' has been a time-honoured period of intense activity that sets the benchmark and proves what a dynamic and energised government we have in place. That is.the nature of the political beast, whichever party is in power, and whatever time of year it happens.

Sailing away

For the third year running, the Peat family will be at sea this summer, taking a cruise in the Mediterranean, officially far away from telephones, faxes and e-mails. Far from the nearest land mass, the mobile doesn't work anyway.

Yet, as soon as the SS Rest and Relaxation draws near another port, you can see groups of slightly anxious-looking passengers veering to the landward side of the vessel and proclaiming loudly: 'Houston, we have a signal!' I've been there and done it, although I try to avoid wearing the T-shirt that says: 'I'm a workaholic.'

Over the last two summers, there has.been every excuse for me contacting the command module back at base. In particularly demanding circumstances, you have to do a lot yourself, no matter how good your deputies are. If the buck stops with you, there is not much choice when the big issues are running.

Yet at the same time, I know that no-one is indispensable, and that issues arising when you are.not on hand will be handled well and ably. All my executives have been encouraged to embrace personal development. They have.been involved in action learning courses, and we have.developed a long-term relationship with the Manchester Business School and Impact Consulting. All the PCTs' execs have regular time-outs to draw up strategies, as well as.regular separate one-to-ones with the board chair and me, developing a culture of openness, risk-taking and empowerment.

Learning to trust

Over the years, I have.learned how to delegate and trust people to deliver. However, there are always issues that look innocent and low-key enough, but that blow up into major concerns. The difficulty is recognising and coralling them.

People have to learn how to handle problems themselves. They usually succeed and do themselves proud, and that is heartening to any chief executive. Stuff happens. If it didn't, we wouldn't have jobs. And if mistakes are made, then people will learn from them and be all the stronger for the future.

We all need a break from the routine challenges. Even Mr Invincible - and that's not me - needs some R&R. So, Messrs Brown, Cameron and Campbell, feel free to take a break this summer.

As for me, by the time you read this I'll be out of mobile contact, and Mrs Peat will be satisfied with that.