One test of a story's likely impact on the public is the range of newspapers that run it. On that basis, the story at the weekend that nurses, doctors and other staff at a Kent acute trust have been asked to do a day's work for no pay pretty much hit the jackpot.
From the FT to The Sun, via the Daily Mail and The Daily Express, every national newspaper decided this was news worth reporting. The combination of the media's current fascination with NHS finances, and hard-pressed doctors and nurses being asked to work for no return, proved irresistible.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust attracted media attention after a letter from its director of HR was leaked to the press. It suggested that staff donate 'just one extra day of work without additional pay as a voluntary contribution' as a way of helping the cash-strapped trust out of its financial predicament by the end of March. It posted a deficit of more than£16m last year.
The trouble with this story, from the trust's managers' perspective, was that the story was basically true, and there was not much that anyone could plead in mitigation.
Senior staff did their best to minimise the damage, pointing out that the working-for-free idea came out of a staff suggestion box, stressing that there was no compulsion for anyone to work for nothing, and confirming that the scheme was absolutely voluntary. But ultimately, yes, managers were asking nurses to work without getting paid.
The press wheeled out the usual suspects to criticise the trust's actions, but some papers were more assiduous than others. The Daily Telegraph tracked down one anonymous nurse, whose comments may make some managers shift uncomfortably in their seats. 'Nurses are pushed to the limit, she said. 'I don't see too many administrators offering their services for nothing.'