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More than one nurse will have choked on the Sunday morning cornflakes last weekend. On the front page of The Sunday Times and picked up widely on the radio and TV was the admonition to - and this is going to make you laugh - smile more.

Ipsos/MORI had made a presentation to Tony Blair and his Cabinet of six months' worth of research, reported the newspaper. Its stunning conclusion was that people want to feel cared for and (bless) smiling nurses would go a long way to delivering this.

So, smiling targets, is it? Would a sardonic grin count as a smile? What units do you use to measure the beatific scale? Would a smile accompanied by a gentle hand placed on a forearm earn double points or merely end in a harassment suit? Except it wasn't quite like that.

'It's bollocks,' an exasperated Ben Page, the managing director of Ipsos/MORI public affairs who was quoted as the source of this bright idea, tells HSJ.

Hmmm. He was at the Cabinet meeting and concedes he did make the point. 'But it was an offhand remark in what is a serious debate around care in our society.'

The full findings are due to be published early next week and make fascinating reading, showing among other things that the public does acknowledge improvements in public services achieved in the past decade but wants more empowerment and flexibility.

It wants, for example, to be able to write uncensored reviews of its local hospitals and see GP surgeries open in the evenings. It wants a fair health service, abhorring the postcode lottery and rejecting the idea that people who don't look after their health should be put to the back of the queue.

But it also wants to feel cared for in way that it frequently doesn't in today's NHS. In the light of the news of six deaths of patients with learning disabilities while in NHS care, turning this round may need more than a smile.