An everyday tale of trust folk, appearing fortnightly Being on his guard doesn't prevent Greycoat from being assailed with bad news...

After months of intense activity, the pace had slackened slightly. The Admiral was in line, the trusts had merged - with the Grey One and all his acolytes untouched, apart from promotions and income enhancements - the CHC had gone back to talking to itself and Smoothie at region gushed expressions of support. I suppose that was a bad sign, but Greycoat seemed unperturbed. Even my lot had improved. Gone were the ginger nuts, replaced by petits fours at elevenses, while wine and buffet lunches had markedly increased.

I was quietly digesting some foie gras which had fallen to the carpet as Greycoat and Tarantino chewed the cud. 'You know, Charles, it's at times like this one has to be on one's guard. You never know what's around the corner.' The Terminator nodded. As someone whose guard was never relaxed he hadn't a notion what Greycoat was on about.

As if on cue Miss Twinset appeared, all pearls and suntan after an idyllic fortnight in Miami at Ardent's villa. It appeared Professor Cruster needed an audience, something about 'clink all gunmen'? The Grey One nodded benignly, although Tarantino looked nervous. In strode the portly medic. What did Greycoat know about clinical governance?

Greycoat was in his languid all's well mode. Clinical? Clinical? Why, Buster himself was in charge of clinical thingies surely? Cruster let out a sharp laugh of triumph. Not any more! Oh no, he's wasn't carrying the can anymore. Had Greycoat seen this? He flourished a crumpled 'Dear General Manager' letter: the trust board was responsible, and what's more, the chief executive had specific responsibilities. The Grey One went pale, and Tarantino began to make short choking noises. What? How could the chief executive be responsible? He didn't carve people up and administer dangerous drugs. Greycoat was clearly rattled, and Cruster was enjoying himself. There was something else.

From a capacious pocket he produced a sheaf of papers. Did Greycoat recognise these? Silly question: they were high-level performance indicators. In his capacity as medical director, Cruster demanded why the post-op length of stay for fractured NOFs was the worst in the country. And what arrangements had been made for dealing with Y2K problems? And what about outpatient waiting lists? Greycoat's vocal chords had ceased to work.