Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign reports that over 200 people were stabbed by used needles last year. What can be done to address this serious problem?

Exchanger, Glasgow.

Being stabbed with a needle is something most of us have experienced. I find that an Elastoplast (you know, the little round one in the packet which can't be used for anything else) works very well, in association with a small Drambuie if required. But we have to be tough on needles and the causes of needles in order to reduce the incidence of injuries. By the way, I've always wondered why they are called 'needlestick injuries'?

I've never seen any sticks involved. Anyway, plainly it is all the fault of occupational therapists. Why they insist on teaching old ladies to stuff soft cushions and then sew them up defeats me, when the same exercising and co-ordination effect could be achieved by giving them a Playstation for a few hours. It really is time we left embroidery to Marks & Spencer and brought rehabilitation into the computer age. I once visited a nursing home where the inmates were encouraged to take up knitting, for God's sake! The staff had to wear Kevlar vests.

A public health director of a new primary care trust was quoted recently as saying his role was to remind his board that 'we are not only about having good health services'. What should PCTs be about?

Professor, Darlington

Well, this director was right. After five years of effective government action, we now have good new health services so PCTs will just have to do something else. I suggest they launch impressive public relations programmes so everyone appreciates how many good things Mr Milburn has done, and to counter the shroud-waving of the Tories who keep banging on about waiting lists and efficiency. They should join the 21st century; waiting lists have disappeared and efficiency has been introduced everywhere. In addition, PCTs could extend their role into junior schools, then they wouldn't even have to change their name. Mind you, There is a big job to be done in identifying some new targets once the current lot have been achieved. That will probably be in the next couple of months, so PCTs will have plenty of time to get their thinking caps on.

Why not let Mel help solve your problem?

E-mail her, in the strictest confidence, at: Mdestrange@ healthcare. emap. co. uk