'We are supposed to be a nation of dog lovers, but was this a step too far?'

At last something to push MRSA off the front page. Debt-ridden Ipswich Hospital proposes to open its doors to cats and dogs, treating them for cancer at its state-of-the-art radiotherapy unit.

The plan, as presented by the Sunday Times, would see the hospital form a partnership with a veterinary oncologist holding weekly clinics on Saturday mornings. NHS specialist radiotherapy staff would work overtime, with their costs met by fees charged to pet owners. The scheme could bring in£50,000 a year.

The hospital (debt£24.1m; healthcheck rating: fair for quality of services/weak for use of resources) has no waiting lists for radiotherapy and its facilities lie idle of a weekend, a spokesperson was quoted as saying.

We are supposed to be a nation of dog lovers, but was this a step too far?

Apparently so. A hygiene disaster waiting to happen, screamed The Daily Telegraphin its follow-up the next day. The Timesran with 'Hospital's pet plan is dismissed as &Quot;barking&Quot;', although this was the headline writer's interpretation rather than something someone had actually said.

The dailies wheeled out the usual suspects to condemn the idea. Keep hospitals for humans, said the Patients' Association and Unison. The Royal College of Nursing cited 'serious hygiene issues'.

Only animal welfare charity the RSPCA came out in favour, calling it an excellent idea.

But what's this? Not so much a plan, more a sheet of A4 popped into the staff suggestions box? The Daily Mailand The Guardianreported that the hospital had run a ballot of staff for their ideas on how to save money/raise funds and this was one of 700 that came flooding in.

So it's official. No one's in the doghouse.