STOP blaming the old. Start blaming the drunks. The NHS is in crisis and we’re desperate for someone to blame. Just about everyone’s had their turn in the stocks – from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt down to junior doctors and women GPs who are more likely to work part-time. How dare they?

The fact is the NHS is struggling to do far more than it was ever set up for. No wonder it’s falling apart at the seams. Its problems and solutions are many and various. The entire system needs re-thinking and reorganising from the beginning again.

In the meantime, the blame for the continuing crisis has been mainly heaped on anyone daring to look after themselves well enough to reach old age. Shame on you. After a probably fairly Spartan childhood and a long working life, anyone over 70 is labelled as a “bed blocker” for finally succumbing to illness, especially if they’re inconsiderate enough to have no-one to look after them at home.

Meanwhile, plenty of younger people who are otherwise fit and healthy drink much too much, much too often on a pretty regular basis. Unlike being old and alone, it’s considered socially acceptable, praiseworthy even. Suggest that it’s not terribly sensible and you’ll be reminded forcibly that drinkers have the right to do as they like.


But over a million hospital admissions each year – from falls and fights to heart disease and cancers – are related to alcohol, costing the NHS over £3.5 billion. And that’s before you factor in the cost of punch-ups in A&E and abuse of staff.

Cases of alcoholic poisoning – ie getting totally out of your skull on a Saturday night – have doubled in recent years.

More than 8,000 people a year are injured by drunk drivers and half of all fights and a great many accidents involve someone who’s been drinking.

Can you join the dots here? But instead of invoking the laws against being drunk and disorderly, we’re more likely to go round town providing flip flops for late night revellers too drunk to stagger home on their stilettoes. Is this wise?

Because most of us like a drink or three (large G&T please, ice and lemon) we find it hard to condemn those who regularly have much more. It seems a bit kill-joyish or hypocritical.

No it’s not. Regular excessive drinking is costing us all too much,. While the drinkers pay the price, it’s the rest of us who are footing the bills – and waiting twelve hours on a hospital trolley.

The Northern Echo:

JANUARY Jones, 39, pictured above, is bringing up her five-year-old son Xander on her own, saying it protects him from all the stupid things men say like “Don’t cry” or “You throw like a girl.”

Sadly, it still doesn’t protect Xander from all the stupid things said by women – especially his mother….

BREAKFAST buffets are the work of the devil. Especially abroad where you can have the equivalent of three British meals – eggs, ham and cheese, cake, chocolate – all before your second cup of coffee.

Alan Bennett has been moaning about the greedy people at his hotel in Venice – piling their plates so high they can barely get them back to the table.

I always found the Germans and Americans were worst – especially as the Americans covered everything with syrup and/or sprinkles. But when it comes to snaffling food for later, then you can’t beat the Brits, wrapping bread rolls, ham and cheese in paper napkins and stuffing them in their handbags and probably slipping pots of yogurt in their pockets.

At a hotel in Barcelona there was a sign on the breakfast buffet saying “We will supply pique-niques if wanted. Please do not take breakfast food.”

The hotel had visitors from all over the world, but the warning sign was only in English. I wonder why… SASHA Obama, the one to watch. When President Obama made his last address to the nation in Chicago this week – hardly a dry eye in the house – he was accompanied by wife Michelle, elder daughter Malia and lots of other friends and families. But no Sasha, The 15-year-old apparently had a school test that day. Yeah, right, Even if she had, you’d think her dad’s last big speech as president might be worth a note from her mum.

So obviously Sasha had decided she didn’t want to be there on such a huge occasion. Maybe just a teenage strop. But maybe a fine independent spirit. But we probably haven’t heard the last of the Obama name,.

MOTHERS instinctively cradle their babies on their left side – whether mum’s right or left handed. Not only humans, but a surprising number of animals do it too, according to Russian scientists. Something to do with mother and baby bonding.

Unlike younger son, who holds his first born like a rugby ball. No worries there – unless he absent-mindedly drop-kicks him over the back of the sofa… IN the Gwaun Valley, close to where I grew up in Pembrokeshire, they never quite took to the new calendar introduced in 1752. Consequently, they still celebrate New Year a little bit behind everyone else. Today in fact. So, Happy New Year!