Health secretary Alan Milburn at St Thomas' Hospital in London for one of the eight simultaneous launches of the government's consultation with staff and patients on modernising the NHS.

The public consultation will involve the distribution of 12 million leaflets, interviews with former patients, a series of focus groups and two workshops in London and Leeds. The launch coincided with the second plenary meeting of the government's modernisation action teams and was hailed as a 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to shape the future of the health service. Of almost 160 voters in an HSJ website poll this week, 91 per cent said the consultation exercise was a 'sham'.

See news focus, pages 16-17.