Armed men and amateur ops - just a normal day then...

THE prognosis is not good as ITV's answer to ER returns for another series. "I wouldn't have any money on this lot," says a paramedic, surveying the carnage as the victims of a major RTA are brought into casualty.

This is certainly a busy time for the medics with brain operations, collapsed children, beaten-up boyfriends and an armed siege to keep them busy.

New doc on the block Danny Barton (North Square's James Murray) also tells parents that their son is dead, only to realise minutes later that he's told the wrong people. Before he can say, "sorry", he's been held in a side room by an armed man who has something against the patient he's treating.

The pace rarely lets up, even personal grudges have to take a back seat although Christine Fletcher (Niamh Cusack) does her best to stick the knife into old flame Jack Turner (Michael Kitchen) by objecting to him tackling an operation he's only even seen performed in 1978 in the training room.

"We can do this ourselves," insists Turner, picking up a drill like some weekend do-it-yourself practitioner. Fletcher persists with her protests. "Have you gone completely mad?," she asks. He sees it as a last-ditch attempt to save a critically-ill patient. She views it as his ego running rampant.

Kitchen feels there's no time to wait for a proper specialist and tells her to stop moaning. "I need this like I need a hole in the head," he says, a singularly inappropriate comment as he excavates the patient's brain.

Elsewhere, Dr Robert Kingsford (Martin Shaw) finds the procession of sick and dying crash victims aren't what the doctor ordered at all. It's the anniversary of his wife's death, a fact of which he keeps reminding people (which is handy for those, like me, who haven't followed the series before).

Considering the range of patient and illnesses featured in this opener, you worry they have anything left for future episodes. All the same, when new boy Barton asks: "Do you think tomorrow will be a bit quieter?", you know that won't be the case.