Published: 28/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 5966 Page 10

In a week where attempted bombings, Shoot to Kill and an independent inquiry into the death of an innocent electrician filled the newspapers, space for the usual grim debate on the state on the NHS was at a premium.

And perhaps the nation's editors reckoned that Britain had enough bad news to worry about.

The Sunday Express was an exception. This week it dug up the hopeful-looking story of a hospital throwing a party for staff, despite the fact that its finances are in the red.

'Health workers have been invited to a free barbecue at a hospital that is almost£6m in debt, ' the paper howled.

'Burgers, bangers and all the usual barbecue trimmings will be on the menu at the party, which is taking place during working hours, ' it continued, trying to convince us the staff bash at Poole Hospital was worth getting worked up about.

The trust, reported the Sunday Express, has a deficit of£5.8m and is expecting to cut 80 jobs, amid a raft of costcutting measures.

'I am livid, ' an unnamed nurse was quoted as saying. 'They waste so much money.' If the saga of bed closures, angry nurses, and pen pushers wasting public money hadn't been competing with the gory charms of terrorism, might it have earned a better slot than page 28?

Perhaps not. As the paper admits: the money spent on burgers and bangers did not actually come from hospital funds.

Over to director of nursing Martin Smits: 'The barbecue is paid for out of charitable funds so could not be spent on essential services like wards and staff, ' he explained to the paper.

'It is to thank the staff for all the hard work they have done. Staff have lunch breaks, which can be staggered so they can attend.'