This week columnists seized on the case of a smoker apparently denied an NHS operation to fix his broken ankle unless he gives up a 20-a-day habit.

Sunday Times writer Rod Liddle laid into the 'hopeless quacks' behind the decision. 'It is time we started treating doctors the way they treat us. Doctors in supermarkets should be made to wait six weeks at the checkout for an appointment and then have half their purchases thrown out of the trolley for being "unhealthy",' he fumed.

Others, such as The Sunday Telegraph's Jenny McCartney, argued it was high time adults took responsibility for their own health.

'The relationship of too many patients to the NHS is that of a whiny child to a nagging mother,' she wrote.

Meanwhile matrons are to get new powers announced by health secretary Alan Johnson to combat MRSA and doctors' traditional white coats are for the chop under measures to combat superbugs.

But will these do any good?

The Daily Telegraph quoted Derek Butler, chair of MRSA Action UK: 'At the moment, about 60 per cent of doctors don't wash their hands between patients. We applaud Mr Johnson for his commitment to cutting infection rates but we think the biggest challenge is getting hospital staff to improve their standards of hygiene.'

Monday saw a tabloid and broadsheet field day over a hospital's decision to remove a box of wool and knitting needles from a public waiting area because of safety fears.

Managers at Congleton War Memorial Hospital were branded 'knitwits' by The Sun. The Daily Express criticised 'woolly thinking': 'Ladies who knit are sensible and responsible; they use their needles for the purpose intended - not as fencing foils or to poke each other's eyes out. The health and safety police should stop their stupid knit-picking.'