Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 10

The debate over art in hospitals rumbled on in the papers this week. A few outraged, apparently migraine-suffering patients and staff plus five-figure sums spent on ostensibly useless objects and paintings by obviously incompetent managers seems to be just too tasty to resist.

Actually, That is a bit harsh as the debate was sparked by 'official figures' released by the Department of Health last week showing that hospital trusts had spent a total of£9m 'on art' - and duly reported by The Sun and Daily Telegraph with helpful harrumphing from shadow health spokesman Tim Loughton.

But as Media Watch is fond of pointing out - and newspapers reluctantly admit at the end of their stories - trusts spend charitable donations ringfenced for improving the hospital environment through art.

Oh, and what's this?

The Daily Telegraph story also mentions 'a recent study' that 'showed a significant fall in blood pressure among patients who had been exposed to art and music while waiting for operations'.

Surely surgery-prone Torygraph readers would like to hear more about how such works could improve their health. But no, I am afraid their blood pressure was cranked right up again with the juicier myth about public money being spent on a giant pebble while killer bugs run rampant around the wards.

And the blood pressure of readers of the super soaraway Sun must have been sky high as they read how a£25,000 mural at Hillingdon Hospital had to be covered up at even greater expense because its bright colours were triggering migraines.

But it seems that Hillingdon Hospital's 'barmy chiefs' can't win as their attempts to respond to patient complaints were described as 'ugly wooden boards screwed haphazardly into the walls to hide the art - then painted with the hospital's drab tones.' As The Sun itself said, surely someone is 'taking the Picasso?'