POLITICS MICHAEL WHITE

Gosh. August over already. One minute we're heading down the motorway, the next we're confronting that familiar pile of bills, circulars and smug postcards from people who picked a destination with better weather.

Oh yes, and newspapers to plough through to see what we've missed. This year I thought I'd try an experiment: noting the month's NHS-related stories in the Daily Mail and then cross-checking them against The Guardian. Fasten your seat-belt. It's more alarming than you thought.

31 July: 'Mockery of motherhood', declares the Mail's splash over a story about a lesbian couple who used a syringe to give each other a DIY baby, but have now split up. 'Ministers swallow pride over B6 ban', that retreat over vitamin B6, is reported in both papers.

1 August: The Mail reports that Xenical, a drug which prevents the body absorbing fats, has been cleared for sale by British doctors. Good news for Mail-reading fatties. But a danger note: The Guardian reports the seizure of black- market Viagra in a Soho sex shop.

3 August: Both papers highlight a Home Office report on rising heroin addiction among the young; '2.3bn: the bill you pay for drug addicts', is the Mail's gloss. The middle class is affected, it warns. Next day the Mail has better news: a mother left awake during surgery gets 100,000 compensation.

6 August: Nick Leeson, the rogue Barings trader, has colon cancer. Brighter news from Frank Dobson: he promises to pay the next nurses' pay award in full and in one stage.

9 August: 'Agony over unborn baby', the Mail reports. Should social workers take it away from a woman who conceived after being paralysed sky-diving? But cheer up. Cream Med 9000, a 'Viagra rival', may save the NHS 1bn.

10 August: Don't cheer up. The Rowlett Institute in Aberdeen reports that genetically tweaked food may damage immune systems.

11 August: Pasteurised milk contains bugs linked to Crohn's disease, report both papers. Drug firms are ripping off the NHS too, says The Guardian. A 50-year-old woman with fertility-drug triplets has been abandoned by hubby (27), counters the Mail.

12 August: A Mail classic: 'NHS cash funding gay workshops'. Anti-AIDS money, it seems, has been used (once) to teach bondage and S&M.

13 August: Professor Arpad Puztai (68), the man who started the latest genetic scare, 'got it completely wrong' says the Rowlett. He's suspended. Dobbo announces the Bristol Infirmary inquiry. How many babies really died, asks the Mail.

14 August: 'Hard water linked to eczema.' And Tessa Jowell says, 'This isn't a nanny state'. Information, not interference, says Tess.

18 August: Bill Clinton and the Real IRA are both causing mayhem. But the Mail reports the BBC 'filming porn star in Viagra love session'. A bogus nurse who gave injections wasn't even born a woman, it also reveals.

19 August: A Belgian air ambulance has to be borrowed to fly an injured Kent girl to a London hospital. Kent's own chopper crashed in July. A Commons committee says the NHS is not doing enough to combat the millennium bug.

20 August: Manchester doctor quizzed over deaths of wealthy patients, says the Mail.

24 August: The Mail warns against 'Moslem fanatics germ attack threat', chemical retaliation for US air raids. Babies may also be poisoned by mothers who smoke. But pellets in the brain may help Alzheimer's sufferers.

25 August: The month is slowly slowing down, but Viagra is being sold on the Internet.

27 August: I was wrong. The row over Frank Dobson's lower waiting list statistics erupts spectacularly. He fiddled them, say the Tories. It overshadows the discovery of CJD symptoms in NHS-stored appendix.

28 August: Paul Boateng eases the rules on inter-racial adoption despite (the Mail later reports) his own wife's strong views.

30 August: That silly season favourite re-surfaces - the need to ease quarantine regulations, so we can all take our pets on holiday.

31 August: Bank holiday Monday. Even the Mail has briefly stopped terrifying its readers with the hopes and fears which lurk in modern medicine. But not for long. Welcome back, folks.