I spoke to Lord Hunt at the weekend, probably for the first time since he returned to government via the Department for Work and Pensions after resigning with quiet dignity over the Iraq war in 2003.

I spoke to Lord Hunt at the weekend, probably for the first time since he returned to government via the Department for Work and Pensions after resigning with quiet dignity over the Iraq war in 2003.

He's been back as duty peer at the Department of Health since Norman Warner finally went off to the NHS coalface in London as director of its provider agency. There he will soon square up to Number 10's Professor Paul Corrigan when he becomes NHS London's director of strategy and commissioning.

I troubled nice Lord Hunt on a Sunday night because he's the point man on the shambles over applications for top medical training posts which produced a Whitehall U-turn last week. I'll come back to that. But I was struck by his remark that the DWP is a tranquil backwater compared with the practical problems and relentless media attention which face health ministers every day.

'On average I answered eight DWP questions a year in the Lords. On health I do that in a fortnight,' he told me.

It's certainly been a relentless week. We even heard about Gordon Brown's root canal work in the private sector, a tabloid trick used against Labour ministers which I don't imagine most people will think very important - even though the Daily Beast revealed that Cabinet colleagues, including that Blair man, still have NHS dentists. Lucky them!

Rather more serious, as I type Mencap has revealed that there is 'institutional discrimination' in the NHS against people with learning difficulties. Easy to see how that happens, although it shouldn't. It has bumped off the headlines about the treatment of injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Failure lies with the MoD

As Max Hastings, a writer who understands the army, was quick to point out, what's needed here is a dedicated military hospital (as there used to be) or a military ward at Selly Oak Hospital, the specialist centre to which many injured returnees are sent.

The military is a family, so injured and traumatised soldiers want to be among their own, not among civilians who can't grasp (most of us these days) what they've been through. I'd say the failure lies with the Ministry of Defence and army budget planners, not the NHS, where medical treatment is saving lives that would have been lost even 10 years ago.

Now to those jobless medics. The row has been bubbling for days and I got a fierce e-mail from my old sparring partner, Tory MP Peter Bottomley. His family is full of medical types and his wife Virginia used to be health secretary. Not only were 30,000 applicants, mostly ambitious young medics in their mid-20s, seeking 22,000 fast-track posts, but they'd also been denied the chance to submit a normal CV and asked to write a 150-word essay, he told me.

They'd also been prevented from applying for sub-regions, so that a medic whose loved ones are in, say, Portsmouth, risks being offered an interview in Oxford or Kent. 'No wonder the best doctors are not being considered for the best posts,' thundered Mr B, a famously tenacious backbencher.

As you know, a rapid review by the medical establishment last week reversed a policy they'd all agreed ('everyone's fingerprints were on it') five years ago in what had been an attempt to make the medical training lottery less patchy and less unfair to those without network contacts.

It sounds suspiciously like a well-intentioned piece of New Labour anti-elitism which backfired. As Denis Healey used to say, 'when in a hole, stop digging'. So they did. Ministers met the royal colleges last Monday and had sorted out the retreat by the weekend. 'It worked very well,' Lord Hunt told me. 'All the parties to these talks were parties to the original proposals.'

Lord Hunt reveals that his first 10 weeks back at the DoH were spent taking the Mental Health Bill through the Lords, his 11th week doing NHS pay and his 12th sorting out the consultant/GP training issue. Much of his 13th week has been spent worrying about reform of the House of Lords.

Not his responsibility, that one. Peter Bottomley remains unpersuaded that the training crisis is over. He claims the London medical hierarchy had to photocopy 1.2 million pages of applications last week to rescue the situation.

Michael White is an assistant editor (politics) of The Guardian.