Media coverage of NHS millennium pressures around the country is likely to become eerily familiar, thanks to the creation of a central script by the Department of Health.

Trusts and health authorities have been issued with a set of responses to 'frequently asked questions' about the millennium to be produced in response to local and national press queries.

Despite earlier claims by the NHS millennium executive team that communications strategies should be 'locally driven', a 'toolkit' issued by NHS communications director Helen McCallum also promises template press notices and draft articles for local papers.

The guide is the basis for local strategies which must be produced by winter-planning groups by the end of the month.

Local campaigns, starting at the end of November, are to be based on a national theme of self-help for patients.

Winter 1999/2000 information pack. NHS Responseline,

0541-555455. Free.