'It won't work round here,' a resident of one of the Department of Health's newly designated Healthy Towns predicted to The Times.

Denizens of Dudley, Portsmouth, Halifax, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Tewkesbury, Thetford and Tower Hamlets are waking up to the news that their waistlines are to be measures of the success of the government's anti-obesity policy.

But set aside visions of boot camps in municipal parks, the reality is much more fluffy, with "rewards" and "encouragement".

Private lessons

Chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson outlined how the health service could learn lessons in customer care from the private sector in a column on the BBC's website.

Sir Liam stopped short of demanding that barium should be served in goblets - one of the examples used - but ends by calling for patients to "wear the crown" as customers.

British Medical Association consultants committee chair Jonathan Fielden provided the first of many online responses.

"Deciding on the best treatment for a patient is not like going into a shop and picking a product from a shelf," he said.

Flight of fancy

The second comment will amuse those familiar with Sir Liam's fondness for comparing the NHS with the aviation industry.

"I train BA staff in customer service," wrote Adrian of Windsor, "and there is a gulf in perception between the way NHS staff and commercial staff interact with clients."