‘Blue Monday’ might have been last week but the downbeat mood has continued for many in the media coverage of the health service.

“Desperate hospital bosses” want to bring in army medics to run accident and emergency in Pontefract, according to the Daily Mirror, while the investigation into deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital and the neonatal deaths in Belfast were covered in most papers. And four patients a day are dying dehydrated or malnourished in hospitals, according to “damning new statistics” obtained by the Daily Mail.

No less gloomy was the report of the health select committee, quoted in the Observer, warning of disruption, distraction and complications as the NHS struggles to cope with the implications of the Health Bill while making £20bn savings.

The story was rapidly picked up and coalition ministers were put into the field to defend it – not an easy job as the Royal College of Nursing’s withdrawal of support continued to reverberate. But BBC political correspondent Louise Stewart said the bill was over the worst, although it would not be an easy ride until the “big bang in 2013 when GPs finally get control over the purse strings”.

Just in case doctors thought life was going to get any easier then, there was a challenge to the idea that they are always the patient’s friend and advocate. Daily Telegraph columnist Dr Max Pemberton attacked clinical commissioning groups, such as two in Hertfordshire, that deny obese patients or smokers routine operations. Decisions were motivated by money rather than patient welfare and made by “a group of unelected clinicians and managers, taking decisions in a boardroom away from the coalface”.

Volunteers for the priority setting committee of the CCG please step forward!