NHS facing difficult start to the year as six-day strike looms, boss warns
The NHS may have to deal with ‘one of the most difficult starts to the year’ it has ever faced, a medical leader has warned.
National medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis believes the service is set to be ‘on the backfoot’ as 2024 starts with an unprecedented six days of strikes over pay by junior doctors in England that will impact on almost all routine care, with consultants covering as the NHS prioritises urgent and emergency cases.
Flu and winter illnesses, combined with rising staff absences due to coronavirus, are set to add more pressure to services that will already be stretched by the strike. Junior doctors in England are set to walk out from 7am on January 3 until 7am on January 9.
Powerful earthquakes leave at least 30 dead along Japan’s western coast
At least 30 people are dead after a series of powerful earthquakes hit western Japan, with officials warning people in some areas on Tuesday to stay away from their homes because of a risk of more strong quakes.
Aftershocks continued to shake Ishikawa prefecture and nearby areas a day after a magnitude 7.6 temblor slammed the area on Monday afternoon.
Thirty people were confirmed dead in Ishikawa, officials said. Seven others were seriously injured, while damage to homes was so great that it could not immediately be assessed, they said.
Sunak praises ‘relentless action’ as government says asylum backlog is cleared
The prime minister has credited ‘relentless action’ after the government announced it met a target to clear a backlog of asylum claims.
The Home Office said on Monday that Rishi Sunak’s ‘commitment of clearing the legacy asylum backlog has been delivered’ and it had processed more than 112,000 asylum cases overall in 2023. Officials also made the ‘highest annual number of substantive decisions in a year since 2002’, it said.
But Labour accused the government of making false claims about meeting the target, with figures suggesting the department had fallen short of the number initially set to reach.
Family of boy, 16, killed in New Year’s Eve Primrose Hill stabbing ‘distraught’
The family of a 16-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed on New Year’s Eve at a popular London firework spot have spoken of their devastation.
Harry Pitman was attacked as he waited to watch the fireworks with friends near the Primrose Hill viewing platform in Camden after an ‘altercation’, the Metropolitan Police said.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and remains in custody at a north London police station.
Victory for campaign as shoppers no longer have to pay VAT on period pants
Consumers will no longer pay VAT on ‘essential and environmentally-friendly’ period pants following a two-year campaign.
From yesterday (Jan 1), women will save up to £2 on period pants on average – up to 16% – following the pledge to scrap the tax by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the autumn statement 2023.
It follows a campaign by brands, retailers, women’s groups and environmentalists dating back to 2021, when the so-called ‘tampon tax’ was dropped from other period products such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups. However, a 20% tax on period pants, which are designed to be worn as an alternative to using tampons and sanitary towels, continued as they were classified as garments.
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South Korean opposition leader stabbed in the neck by a knife-wielding man
South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck by an unidentified knife-wielding man during a visit to the south-eastern city of Busan, police said.
Lee, head of the main opposition Democratic Party, was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment after the incident on Tuesday.
Police and emergency officials said he was conscious and was not in critical condition, but his exact status was unknown. The attack happened when Lee walked through a crowd of journalists and others after finishing a tour of the site of a new airport in Busan.
Total migrant Channel crossings down a third in 2023
The number of migrants crossing the Channel has fallen year-on-year for the first time since current records began, with the total arrivals in 2023 down more than a third on 2022, government figures show.
The last crossings of the year took place on December 16, when 55 people made the journey from France in one boat.
The provisional annual total for the year, 29,437, is 36% lower than the record 45,774 crossings for the whole of 2022. But it is still the second highest annual total on record, above the figure for 2021 (28,526).
Bright spells for central areas initially, reports BBC Weather, but rain from the south will push northwards later. A wet start for the south, followed by clear spells and showers by the evening. Windy in the far north and south with gusts up to 70mph. Temperatures between eight and 14 degrees.
Tonight, persistent rain across northern areas will clear north-eastwards. Strong winds in the far north and south again. Showers elsewhere.