Independent woman suited to health service

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What is your picture of the perfect health authority?According to users and employees of Buckinghamshire Health Authority it is one that reads the Independent .

In market research to find out local people's perceptions of the newly formed authority, health professionals -from GPs to line managers - and NHS users were asked to describe and illustrate their existing view of the authority - and explain how they would like it to be.

The view of the existing authority produced images of pound signs, rows of people waiting, and NHS staff who appeared unhappy. When asked to choose photographs illustrating the authority, black and white pictures of barbed wire, muddle, misery and of a rope stretched to breaking point were chosen, Julie Wells, the authority's director of communications reports in this week's Health Service Journal.

Asked to depict how they would like the authority to be, the staff and focus groups chose warm colours, smiling faces and pictures of health and vitality. But the sting in the tail, according to Ms Wells, was when they were asked to depict the authority as a person, defining in addition the newspaper it would read.

The present authority was seen as male, mid-40s, balding and grey-suited, full of qualifications but lacking common sense, who read the Financial Times or the Daily Telegraph.

The ideal was female, aged about 35, caring, confident, able, inspirational and energetic - and an Independent reader. Which miffed the authority, given that all but one of its seven senior executives are women.

The research, however, has told the executive how it wants to be seen - as a strategic leader. And tomorrow it will be buying the Independent

Nicholas Timmins, who is in his mid-40s, but blue-suited and hirsute, is leaving The Independent to join the Financial Times. He hopes he is not lacking in common sense.