i Editor's Letter: None of us deserve to die just because we get ill at the weekend



Senior doctors will find little sympathy from journalists over the plan to force them to finally work weekends, since the only day that print journalists get off every year is 24 December. (There are no papers on Christmas morning.) And I suspect that the public has little truck with consultants reluctant to work at weekends – when hospital death rates rise 12 per cent.

Junior doctors are expected, unfairly, to accept responsibility for hundreds of critically ill patients with little support, and can be reluctant to phone the on-call consultant out of hours. A friend of mine, on one of his first lonely night shifts, had the Grim Reaper pacing the intensive care corridors ahead of him.

After talking about the 7-day revolution on Sky News at the weekend, I heard from one doctor, Jacky Chambers, say: “My mother did not see a doctor for 62 hours at the weekend. She died. Change doctors’ job plans!”

The reform, which may mean tearing up 40,000 contracts, is overdue and, in the words of NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, “absolutely compelling, both clinically and morally”. The Welsh government is warming to the idea, and the Scottish administration has also committed to 7-day consultants.

None of us deserves to die just because we get ill at the weekend.

The British Medical Association  agrees that the argument has been  successfully made – but says the Government must now explain how this works in practice, when hospitals are grappling with reduced resources. Over to Jeremy Hunt.


Ah, the magic of Christmas. Dad, dressed as Santa, being driven around housing estates on the Round Table flatbed lorry – that was the moment for us, as young boys, that the seasonal excitement bubbled over into delirium. It’s a wonder Mum didn’t resort to Temazepam mince pies.

Imagine, then, the little faces of Milton Keynes’ cherubic offspring as they queued for entry to the city’s enchanting Winter Wonderland.

Regrettably, Lapland turns out to be a churned-up field, an ice rink without ice, reindeer without antlers, and when Santa’s Grotto eventually opened it contained a scrawny young man with an ill-fitting beard (page 17). “Nanny, have we been bad?” asked one little girl.

Comparisons will be made with 2008’s Lapland New Forest, “where dreams come true”. There, the £25 entry bought access to a car park, the  “tunnel of light” (fairy lights in a  tree) and huskies going berserk on their chains. Parents punched Father Christmas and his elves.

Adults have the capacity to  find comedy in the truly underwhelming. How else to explain the success of some of Britain’s more curious museums? (And Madame Tussauds.) Alas, for our younger citizens, Christmas is all too  serious a business.


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