Published: 14/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 115 Page 10

'Magnificent', 'proud to be British', 'professionalism', 'amazing sensitivity' - just a few of the words and phrases used to describe the excellent NHS response to the attacks on London on 7 July.

It would be insensitive to suggest that this cloud has a silver lining. But NHS managers and staff must take some comfort at how robustly their planning and training stood the test of reality - and, in an exception to the rule, the universal recognition in the mainstream media of their relative success in the face of extreme adversity.

Many managers may feel it is a shame that it takes such horrific acts of terrorism for the NHS's professionalism to be recognised for what it is.

With one voice the media - helped by politicians, civil servants and royal visits - praised the slick management of the response. Like the congestion charge, NHS manager-bashing was given an official two-day holiday.

And like ministers, managers were probably hoping the honeymoon would be allowed to continue, that the inevitable backlash - when the shock and gratitude are melted by growing anger and awkward questions - would not, for once, follow.

But perhaps in part due to universal exhortations for a defiant return to normal life, the familiar, widely covered reports of NHS incompetence have already begun to return to our airwaves and newspapers.

The Healthcare Commission's findings that 'nearly half' of day care surgery time is lost due to cancellations, late starts and 'excessive delays' between patients received prominent coverage on Monday.

Managers will not be surprised to hear that the report's positive findings - of improvements in patient information and choice - were buried at the end of news reports, if they made it in at all.

Back to business as usual, then.