It's all very embarrassing when you give someone the boot and are then forced to give them their job back. Which must explain why South Thames regional office has insisted on saying that Lady Helen Gardiner has had her appointment as chair of Surrey Ambulance trust 'extended'. 'It's an extension to her existing appointment,' said a press officer. ''Extension' is the word that's being used rather than 'renewed'.' The latter, of course, means 'continue after an intermission'. The clear implication from South Thames is that Lady Helen never really left the trust at all. This must be news to health secretary Frank Dobson, whose officials scoured Surrey for weeks desperately trying to find someone to fill the vacancy. News also to Lady Helen, who was reported by the Surrey Ambulance official newsletter in November as saying she was 'very disappointed to be departing from the service'. News also to the Treasury, who if South Thames is right, as opposed to being economical with the truth, must owe Lady Helen around pounds3,000 in back pay.

It appears the joys of the new sweet and collaborative NHS are yet to be felt in sarf London. HA chief execs in South Thames have worked out the solution to a spot of bovver over some doctors not backing the move to site paediatric neurosurgery at King's. An 'implementation group', know what I mean? 'We... believe, perhaps naively, that sheer force of argument will prevail, with a judicious and delicate use of 'muscle' where appropriate,' writes HAs' group director Adrian Pollitt in a letter to Great Ormond Street Hospital boss Robert Creighton. Has the Russian mafia got a slice of the NHS reconfiguration racket? Should gentle persuasion fail, Mr Pollitt could always try his hand as a night-club bouncer, suggests Geoff Martin, of pressure group London

Health Emergency.

Good to see that celebrations to mark 50 years of the NHS are being taken so seriously. A press release arrives trumpeting a string of local events being staged around the country, including publication of a book on the history of the NHS in Newcastle. But inquiries reveal that the book will not emerge after all because the two intended authors are too busy. Pity the pair who will have less

time to devote to the project because they are retiring. How many other events are all just puff?

Monitor is particularly looking forward to the special 50th anniversary service planned to take place at Leicester Cathedral, with a sermon by none other than junior health minister Paul Boateng. Pray he is not banned from delivering his message after being reprimanded in the Commons last week over his use of the inelegant abbreviation 'sweet FA', which Mr Boateng said was what the Conservatives did about public health when in government. Maybe next time the minister would like to spell it out.