An Office for Public Management survey ('Off message', pages 26- 27, 7 May) suggests that many people feel glossy publications produced by the NHS are a waste of public money.

And so they can be. But any publication, glossy or modest, can be a waste of money if it hasn't been produced for a specific audience. All publications, be they newspapers, magazines or books, must know their target readership; NHS publications are no different.

Annual reports seem to be getting glossier by the year and I believe they are prone to the worst excesses of form over content.

The judges in last year's Nexus/Healthcare Financial Management Association's report and accounts competition commented that too many trusts and health authorities were spending inappropriate amounts on their annual reports and attempting to 'ape big business'.

If this is so, it is an unnecessary expense. Annual reports do not have to be extravagant glossies to do their job.

At the other extreme, I despair of those organisations which spend virtually nothing and produce desperately dull, jargon-filled tomes which will never be read by anybody except the board. There is no reason why an annual report shouldn't be a 'good read'.

There is plenty of opportunity to make an organisation's work 'come alive' by presenting information in lively and informative ways: through case studies, interviews and feature articles, for example, and by putting the focus on people rather than process.

The aim for any publication is to 'hook' the reader and keep them reading. Gloss is icing on the cake.

Cheryl Powell

Seahorse Publications