The Timesreported that the proposed deal has 'astonished critics of Novation in the US'

As an unusual alliance of doctors and managers, nurses and porters gears up for at least a silly season of discontent, the government continues to provide easy negative headline opportunities for those opposed to its reforms of the NHS.

Last month it was the selling off of commissioning to 'Mr Big from Texas' (to quote one social affairs correspondent). Now a different Mr Big is at the heart of this month's media kicking.

Many papers reported last week that US firm Novation, which is likely to take over the NHS Logistics Authority with German company DHL, is under investigation back home. In fact HSJ had reported this way back in the spring.

Calling it the 'biggest privatisation yet seen in the NHS', The Timesreported that the proposed deal has 'astonished critics of Novation in the US' as they say it has been investigated over claims it 'overcharged federal healthcare programmes for goods'.

And the Mail on Sundaysaid Labour had been 'savaged' by the news that Novation and DHL were likely to take over 'buying everything from bandages to hip implants for the NHS'.

All of this hit the newsstands against a backdrop of widespread local headlines documenting the 'creative destruction' (according to former Department of Health special adviser professor Chris Ham) unleashed on the NHS by the government's policies.

The DoH is quick to blame the media for the public's poor perception of the NHS. But ministers and officials would do well to remember that in most cases it is only the messenger.

Mary-Louise Harding