Another week, another pledge from the prime minister. This time he says surgeons will work at night.

As The Daily Express told its readers that 'all-night surgery' will be introduced to cut delays, it said Tony Blair aimed to cut the average wait for treatment down to seven or eight weeks - 10 weeks fewer than the target to treat all patients within 18 weeks by the end of next year.

As HSJ went to press Mr Blair was due to accompany health secretary Patricia Hewitt on a visit to a London hospital on Monday to highlight efforts to meet this 18-week target, and the press was all over it.

The Express added that Mr Blair's efforts to meet the target would be 'boosted by a pledge from 13 trusts across the country to hit the target a year early'.

The Times said the prime minister also wanted to 'encourage' NHS managers to send more patients abroad and further increase the use of the private sector, adding that: 'A nationwide campaign will be launched next month to focus on the activities of all NHS staff, and patients, on cutting waiting times'.

And The Sunday Times told its readers that the programme of work is expected to cost 'at least£2.5bn' and added that the pledge would 'alarm managers of trusts, who will have to finance it from existing budgets'.

Mr Blair's high-profile interference is likely to keep newspapers in NHS headlines for a while, but it is also going to concern acute and primary care trust managers trying to balance the books.

And one of their biggest tasks will be to try to get surgeons to sign up to night shifts.

Helen Mooney