Now that Charlie Whelan has hung up his boots as spin doctor to Chancellor Brown it is safe to say without fear of reprisal that there are distinct dangers attached to over-cleverness in his trade.

They have been illustrated twice this month already, three times if we count recurring speculation about 10 per cent (11 per cent, according to The Sun) for the nurses.

Meanwhile, was it wise of Number 10's PR machine to let it be known Tony Blair had rescued a Dane from drowning off the Seychelles when the PM had not actually got his costume wet?

More relevant to our interests, was it wise of Mr Blair (at Alastair Campbell's behest, no doubt) to reveal on Radio Five Live that he had visited the A&E at St Thomas' Hospital, just across the Thames from Westminster?

As you know, William Hague sarcastically dubbed him 'St Tony, the Angel of Islington' - never responsible for anything that goes wrong. Fresh from accusing Sophie Rhys-Jones of being a Princess Di lookalike, the tabloids accused Mr Blair of mimicking the late princess's caring tactics.

The 'Give 'em the money' Mail sent a team to Tommy's to find out what happened to 27 'Class of '89' nurses: 14 had quit, it revealed. Shock, horror. Actually, it wasn't really that bad. Most were still in healthcare one way or another, some having moved on to be midwives, a doctor even. Four had gone into private nursing, a significant trend; others had gone part-time to have babies. One had died. Not even the Mail can blame St Tony for that.

But the NHS became a recurring feature of Labour's non-relaunch. All week long we were treated to coy hints of higher nurses' pay amid sightings of St Francis of Dobson at the Commons dispatch box, though in fairness to the secretary of state, no one in their right mind would have wanted to deliver the second of his two statements. Flu is no one's fault, but the Ashworth Hospital report was about as grim as it gets - a very bad day for NHS management.

Nurses would be wise not to start spending that 10-11 per cent yet, though when officials call something 'speculation' (Sophie Rhys-Jones' engagement, for instance) it usually means 'we can't confirm it yet'. That said, the information does not come from Mr Dobson, who does not play that sort of game - never has done.

It was sparked by a generous remark in Gordon Brown's Edinburgh speech about nurses' pay - no more so than the PM's or Mr Dobson's, but Mr Brown is Mr Moneybags and, you may note, minister Milburn is now his deputy. Who knows, the spin may have been Mr Whelan's last bequest. It will certainly be hard to back down from now. It will be paid in one stage. More worrying for NHS managers is subsequent speculation that the award (not yet finalised by the review body, so I am told) will be underfunded by the Treasury, so that other groups of employees or frontline services must suffer to pay the angels.

Better news on that score. Their calculations rest on the assumption that last summer's comprehensive spending review, the one that set out the extra£21bn over the coming three NHS years, assumed that pay would rise in line with inflation, ie 2.5 per cent. So that anything more for nurses - eg 10 per cent - will hurt the NHS overall. That assumption, I am authoritatively assured, is wrong.

One more point, as the Lib Dems complain (again) that£21bn isn't much really: Dobbo's problem - apart from flu, or course - is that none of Mr Brown's extra wonga has yet been seen on the wards. It comes in April.

None too soon. Coincidentally, I picked up two anecdotal bits of evidence mid-week to reinforce the mood.

One, a friend whose midwife sister is thinking of going into the private sector because the NHS in London won't let her do shifts that fit in with motherhood. The other, a late Christmas e-mail from a GP friend in the North, married to an NHS nurse who is thinking the same thing.

'She finds nursing has lost some of its personal touches over the years, too much paperwork and not enough hands-on care...'