A&E Waiting Times At Record High
NHS England has recorded its worst accident and emergency (A&E) waiting times since targets were introduced in 2004. According to the latest health service figures, 83.6% of patients were seen within four hours last month, compared with 85.2% in September and 89.9% in October 2018. A&E departments aim to see 95% of patients admitted or transferred within four hours. However, this target has not been met since July 2015. New figures show A&Es are now treating more people than in previous years. In October, attendances rose to 2,170,510 – an increase of 4.4% on the same period last year.
NHS England has also fallen short on two other key hospital targets. According to the latest figures, just 76.9% of patients started cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral – significantly below the NHS target of 85%. Approximately 4.42m patients were also on hospital waiting lists at the end of September, 84.8% of whom had been waiting under 18 weeks – below the target of 92%. An NHS spokesperson confirmed hospitals were facing more pressure to treat a growing number of “older and sicker patients,” but said extra hospital beds would be opened to treat more patients over the winter period.
TORIES PROMISE TO CUT IMMIGRATION
The home secretary has pledged to cut overall immigration into Britain if the Conservative party wins a working majority at next month’s general election. Discussing the Tories’ policy, Priti Patel said: “We will reduce immigration overall while being more open and flexible to the highly skilled people we need, such as scientists and doctors.” The home secretary has sought to make the issue of immigration a key election battleground, claiming that reductions to immigration “can only happen if people vote for a Conservative majority government so we can leave the EU with a deal”.
Patel has claimed net immigration would “surge” to 840,000 people a year under a Labour government. The opposition is yet to publish its policy on the issue, although party members voted to maintain and extend free movement at Labour’s annual conference in September. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbot has rejected Patel’s claim of an immigration “surge,” describing the figure as “make-believe”. “The damage done to our society has been through damaging Conservative cuts to our public services, not by EU nationals coming to work in them,” she added.
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte discusses the impact of flooding on Venice. The city has declared a state of emergency after a high tide flooded homes and historic buildings with 1.87m of water. Approximately 85% of the city was engulfed in water when the tides reached their highest point on Tuesday night. The prime minister has described the situation as "a blow to the heart of our country" and pledged to act quickly to fund Venice’s recovery.
Conte visited the city late on Wednesday. Writing on Facebook after the visit, the prime minister said he would accelerate the so-called Mose project, a hydraulic barrier defence designed to protect Venice in the event of rising sea levels. Venetian mayor Luigi Brugnaro has warned damage to the city’s heritage sights is likely to “run into hundreds of millions of euros”. Pumps have already been deployed to drain St Mark's Basilica. The famous landmark has reportedly suffered “grave damage” as a result of the flooding.
In other news...
SOUTH YORKSHIRE BRACES FOR MORE RAIN
Communities in the north of England and the Midlands braced themselves for further rain yesterday as they battle to recover from severe flooding. Residents of flood-affected towns in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were told to remain vigilant as heavy rains forecast today and over the weekend risked worsening the situation. Forty flood warnings remained in place across the UK yesterday. The Environmental Agency said 300 of its staff were working around the clock to protect communities against further flooding, while pumps were being used in five of the worst-hit areas. Meanwhile, East Gloucestershire, parts of Wiltshire and south Wales faced heavy snowfall on Thursday, with the treacherous conditions leaving some motorists stranded during yesterday morning’s commute.
SUVS COULD WIPE OUT ELECTRIC CAR BENEFITS
The environmental benefits of increased electric car uptake risk being negated by growing demand for SUVs, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned. In its annual global industry forecast, the IEA said that despite rising electric vehicle use, the demand for oil is likely to continue to grow over the next two decades due to the popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs. SUVs are often larger and therefore more difficult to electrify than smaller cars. While the report has celebrated the global boom in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, it also singles out energy intensive SUVs for criticism. According to IEA director Fatih Birol, SUVs “were the second biggest reason for global emissions growth in last ten years, after the power sector and more than all the industrial sectors put together”.
UK DESIGNER WINS DYSON AWARD
A British designer has received the James Dyson award after creating a new bioplastic made from organic fish waste. A graduate in product design, 24-year-old Lucy Hughes created MarinaTex in an attempt to reduce the use of environmentally harmful single-use plastics. The bioplastic is made of fish waste which would otherwise be disposed of in landfill sites and breaks down in compost within four to six weeks. It’s thought MarinaTex could potentially replace single-use plastics as an alternative packaging for food and drink products. Hughes’ creation beat 1,078 other entrants from 28 countries to win the award and its £30,000 prize money. The scheme is run by the James Dyson Foundation and challenges students of product design, industrial design and engineering to “design something that solves a problem”.
NEW CLAIMS ROCK IMPEACHMENT HEARING
The acting ambassador to Ukraine has told the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump that the president directly asked about a Ukrainian investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden. Bill Taylor said a member of his staff was informed by US diplomat Gordon Sondland that Trump was eager to push for an investigation into his Democratic opponent. It is illegal for a president to solicit the help of foreign entities in election campaigns. Taylor’s claims were made during a public hearing on Wednesday. Trump has denied pushing for an investigation into Biden. Speaking after Taylor’s testimony, Trump said: "I know nothing about that, first time I've heard it.”
17 ARRESTED IN TRAFFICKING RAIDS
Seventeen people have been arrested in early morning raids by police in east London. It follows an international investigation into human trafficking which saw UK police cooperate with their Romanian counterparts. Officers raided 16 addresses in the capital, arresting 14 men and three women, as Romanian police simultaneously raided four addresses in Romania, arresting one man. In London, 29 potential victims of human trafficking – all women aged between 20 and 40 – were taken to safety. Those arrested are being held on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, Class A drug offences and firearm offences. The Met police has welcomed the “synchronised operation activity” for dismantling an organised crime network and providing support to the victims “in one fell swoop”.
The world’s first museum dedicated to the vagina is due to open in London this weekend following a public fundraising drive. The venue has been backed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is designed to help educate people on gynaecological anatomy and health. The museum’s founder said she hoped the opening would work to break down taboos around the topic. "This is a part of the body that should be celebrated. The museum is a fantastic way to spread the message that there is nothing shameful or offensive about vaginas and vulvas," she added.