The Telegraph 2024-04-03 16:00:38

Israel must stop killing civilians ‘today’, aid group founder says after employees killed

Israel must stop killing civilians “today”, the celebrity founder of an aid group said, after seven of his employees were killed in an Israeli air strike on Monday.

José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen organisation has been sending supplies to civilians in Gaza, called on Israel to “start the long journey to peace” and said it should stop using food as a “weapon of war”.

Three British nationals were among the aid workers killed on Monday when an Israeli drone fired missiles at their vehicles, which were marked with the aid group’s logo. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said the strike was “unintentional”.

“Israel is better than the way this war is being waged,” Mr Andrés wrote in The New York Times. “It is better than blocking food and medicine to civilians. It is better than killing aid workers who had coordinated their movements with the Israel Defence Forces.”

He continued: “The Israeli government needs to open more land routes for food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today. It needs to start the long journey to peace today.”

Mr Andrés also paid tribute to his former employees as “the best of humanity” and “more than heroes”.

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Ukraine will destroy Crimea bridge by July, official claims

Kyiv will destroy the Kerch bridge connecting Russian to occupied Crimea “in the first half of 2024”, a senior official in Ukraine’s military intelligence service has said.

Razing the bridge is “inevitable”, the unnamed source told the Guardian, adding that Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the military intelligence, already had “most of the means to carry out this goal”.

Officials believe that permanently damaging the bridge would significantly impair the Kremlin’s ability to carry out a spring offensive as Moscow would be forced to transport military supplies by road through occupied southern Ukraine, or via a new 450-mile railway line that is under construction.

Ukraine has attacked and severely damaged the Kerch bridge twice since the invasion, while road and rail traffic across the bridge are frequently disrupted by the threat of further attacks.

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Retired vet found dead after attack by seven dogs

A retired vet was found dead in his garden after being attacked by seven dogs.

Antony Harrington was killed by the animals at his home in Little Packington, Warwickshire, on Nov 25 last year.

Police were called to reports of a man in his 70s suffering a cardiac arrest at 6.04pm, with officers declaring him dead at the scene. Warwickshire Police found bite marks to be the cause of his death.

All seven, including several large Bernese mountain dogs, were seized and a 75-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of owning a dangerously out-of-control dog. She has since been bailed while an investigation is carried out.

It is claimed that Mr Harrington’s clothes had been ripped from his body and scattered around his garden during the attack.

A source told The Sun: “His family are distraught and hope the investigation can help them understand what happened.”

The National Traction Engine Trust paid tribute to the father of three, who was a locomotive enthusiast according to his social media.

It said in a Facebook post: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Tony Harrington last November.

“The circumstances surrounding his death are still part of a police investigation.”

Mr Harrington bought The Lodge Veterinary Centre with his wife Lousie Harrington in 1990.

In 1988 they added the practice’s Coleshill branch to the existing Hodge Hill site.

Both he and his wife were fully retired from the practice when he died.

The Lodge Veterinary Centre was contacted for comment.

‘Bite injuries’

A Warwickshire Police spokesman said: “At 6.04pm on 25 November 2023, paramedics contacted police to inform them of a man in cardiac arrest at a house in Packington Lane, Meriden.

“The man in his 70s was declared dead at the scene. He had suffered bite injuries, which were found to be the cause of death.

“Inquiries are ongoing. Seven dogs were seized at the scene and a 75-year-old woman from the Coleshill area was arrested on suspicion of owning a dog dangerously out of control.

“She has since been bailed while inquiries continue.”

It was revealed last month that dog attacks in the UK have shot up by a fifth in a year with police recording more than 80 incidents a day.

There were 30,539 instances of a dog injuring a person in 2023, up from 25,291 in 2022.

Following the surge in dog attacks, the Government took the decision to ban XL Bullies from February.

The breed was added to the list of dangerous dogs on Feb 1 following at least six fatal attacks in 2023.

It is now illegal to breed, sell, rehome, advertise or abandon XL bullies in the UK.

Last month the organisers of Crufts, the world’s biggest dog show, claimed the law as it now stands does not stop the breeding of XL bullies or prevent attacks.

Dr Ed Hayes, the head of public affairs at The Kennel Club, said the legislation will fail because of its loopholes.

He said: “We are going to continue to have a supply of dogs that grow into XL bullies as years go by. There will be a huge number of XL bullies going through the court process forever more because they’ll continue to be produced by mating two legal dogs together.”

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NHS waiting list could be two million longer than thought

The NHS waiting list could be two million people longer than previously thought, new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

A representative survey of almost 100,000 adults in England found that 21 per cent were waiting for an NHS appointment, test or medical treatment.

It means that around 9.7 million people – more than one in five – are waiting for an appointment when the survey’s results are extrapolated across the country, the ONS said.

Official waiting list data up until the end of January said that 6.3 million people were waiting for 7.6 million appointments because some people are on two or more waiting lists.

The NHS does not include those waiting for follow-up appointments or check-ups because they have already started a programme of treatment.

The survey also found that one in seven patients on the waiting list had been waiting for longer than a year for an appointment or treatment despite NHS figures suggesting it is fewer than one in 20.

While NHS data show that 321,394 patients have been waiting longer than 12 months for a first appointment after a referral, the ONS survey found the number waiting longer than a year was likely to be closer to 1.35 million.

Just over 14,000 people have been waiting 18 months according to NHS figures, but ONS suggests this could actually be more than 670,000 people, a year after the number waiting was supposed to have been eliminated.

‘Sunak has broken his pledge’

Last month the NHS also pushed back its target to bring down the number of people waiting 65 weeks or longer for an appointment to zero in an admission that Rishi Sunak’s target to cut lists had been missed.

Hospitals have now been asked to make sure this has happened by September “at the latest”.

Andrew Gwynne MP, the Labour shadow health minister, said: “Pull back the cover and the crisis in the NHS is even worse than it appeared.

“One in every five people in England are stuck on waiting lists, and they are waiting longer than ever before.

“Rishi Sunak has broken his pledge to cut waiting lists, and now he’s planning to close services and cut doctors and nurses,” he said. “The longer the Conservatives remain in office, the longer patients wait.”

Labour has said it will pay for an extra two million operations and appointments through evening and weekend clinics.

Sir Julian Hartley, the chief executive of NHS Providers said: “No patient should have to wait any longer than necessary for the care they need, especially since worsening conditions can lead to increased physical, emotional or mental distress.

He said: “Demand for services has been rising since the pandemic, while industrial action is taking a huge toll on patients and already-stretched services, hampering trusts’ ability to cut care backlogs. Trusts’ efforts must be matched urgently by national support.”

Brett Hill, the head of health and protection at consultancy firm Broadstone, said the gap between NHS data and the ONS findings were “of particular concern”.

He said it “suggests the proportion of UK adults now waiting for medical treatment or advice is far higher than previously understood”.

GP access

The ONS also surveyed the public on their access to GPs and satisfaction with their general practice.

Almost one in 10 people said they had been unable to make contact with their GP the last time they tried to book an appointment with most people finding it took two or more days to hear back.

Meanwhile 7.4 per cent said they were told to call back another day or ring 111 because the practice could not help.

Almost a third of patients said they had found it difficult or very difficult to get an appointment while just under half said it had been easy.

The survey was carried out between Jan 16 and Feb 15 2024 by NHS England and the ONS and involved 90,000 adults aged 16 and over in England.

An NHS spokesman said: “Work is ongoing to reduce the longest waits for patients but despite pressures and industrial action, hardworking NHS staff ensured the Covid backlog has fallen for four months in a row and 18-month waits are down almost 90% on their peak.

“In terms of GP care, almost two-thirds of people are happy with their experience, and millions more are being given appointments compared to before the pandemic. The latest NHS data shows there were 30.5 million appointments delivered by GPs and their teams in February 2024, compared with 24.7 million in February 2020.”

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Manhunt launched as convicted killer escapes from mental health facility

A convicted killer is on the run after escaping from a mental health facility in London.

Philip Theophilou, 54, absconded from the building in Homerton on Sunday and has not returned since.

He admitted to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in 2005 after stabbing his neighbour to death.

The Metropolitan Police believes he travelled to Green Park, in central London, at around 11.25am on Sunday.

The force said there were concerns that he does not have any medication with him and may pose a danger without it.

He was last seen wearing a grey jumper, blue jeans and a black jacket. Anyone who sees him is urged not to approach and to instead call the police.

In April 2004, Theophilou had been lying in wait outside the home of Simon Breed, 51, in Alexandra Park, north London, with a kitchen knife. He was not taking his schizophrenia medication at the time. He stabbed the father of two six times, killing him.

Theophilou was sent to Broadmoor Hospital without limit of time under the Mental Health Act.

A spokesman for the East London NHS Foundation Trust said: “We can confirm that we are actively working with the Metropolitan Police for the safe return of a patient.

“The individual had been on unescorted leave from the John Howard Centre, our medium secure unit in Hackney, as part of his rehabilitation, and did not return as planned on Sunday, March 31.”

NHS England says medium secure units “care for and treat patients who are a serious risk to others”.

An information guide produced by NHS England reads: “These patients need physical security to prevent them from escaping.” It adds that the facilities “focus on helping patients get better and keeping others safe”.

The John Howard Centre is made up of eight male wards, one female ward and one specialist secure ward for men with learning disabilities.

In January 2003, Theophilou had caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to Mr Breed’s house and car with a meat cleaver.

Theophilou had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act after the attack on the car, and was released from St Ann’s Hospital in August that year.

The Old Bailey heard during his manslaughter trial that a crack had appeared in the house Theophilou shared with his parents after Mr Breed started building work in 2002, shortly after he had moved in.

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Live Tories facing general election defeat worse than 1997 wipeout, major poll finds

The Conservative Party is on course to suffer an even worse general election result than in 1997, according to a major new poll which suggested Labour could secure a 154 seat majority.

A YouGov projection based on a survey of 18,761 people carried out between March 7 and 27 showed Labour would secure 403 seats if a contest were held tomorrow. 

But the Tories would be in a distant second place with just 155 seats. That would be even worse than the 165 they secured under Sir John Major in 1997, when Sir Tony Blair swept to power in a Labour landslide. 

The Liberal Democrats are set for a “significant parliamentary comeback”, picking up 49 seats including the Godalming and Ash constituency currently represented by Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor.

Reform is not on track to win any seats at the next general election, the projection shows, although Richard Tice’s party is set to win 12 per cent of the vote.

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

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Royal Mail to cull letter deliveries in second class post shake-up

Second class letters will be delivered just three times a week under new proposals submitted by Royal Mail.

The postal service has outlined plans to deliver second class post on every other weekday as it looks to shore up its finances amid a slump in letter sending.

Bulk business mail would also fall under second class, meaning bank statements, bills and tax returns will arrive within three working days rather than two.

However, Royal Mail said it would continue to deliver first class post six days a week as it acknowledged the importance of next-day and Saturday deliveries for industries such as magazine publishers and greeting card makers.

The company is also in talks with the NHS over ways to ensure greater reliability for time-sensitive medical letters.

This could mirror the hybrid system currently used by many GP practices, which issue electronic letters that are then printed and sent by Royal Mail.

The proposals were put forward in Royal Mail’s submission to regulator Ofcom, which is reviewing the postal service’s so-called universal service obligation (USO).

This requires the company to deliver Monday to Saturday and sets delivery targets for first and second class post.

Ofcom has estimated that the USO imposes a financial burden of between £325m and £675m on Royal Mail and warned it could become “financially and operationally unsustainable” unless the rules are eased.

The company lost £319m in the first half of the year as it warned that letter volumes are likely to drop to 4bn in the next five years, down from their peak of 20bn two decades ago.

Royal Mail, which has long campaigned for the USO to be overhauled, also called for its quality of service targets to be relaxed.

Currently, Royal Mail is required to deliver 93pc of first class mail on time and 98.5pc for second class post. 

Royal Mail has repeatedly failed to hit these targets in recent years, as it struggled amid a lengthy strike by postal workers.

Last year, Ofcom fined the company a record £5.6m after it failed to deliver more than a quarter of first class post on time.

Bosses said a relaxation of the rules, coupled with new reliability targets, would bring the UK in line with other European countries, including France and Italy.

Royal Mail said the changes would reduce the net cost of the USO by up to £300m, though it warned they could take up to two years to implement.

The plans would reduce daily delivery routes by up to 9,000 and lead to around 1,000 voluntary redundancies. Royal Mail said these would be managed through natural turnover wherever possible. 

Ofcom is expected to provide an update on its consultation in the summer, though any changes would ultimately have to be approved by Parliament.

Martin Seidenberg, chief executive of Royal Mail parent company International Distributions Services, said: “If we want to save the universal service, we have to change the universal service. Reform gives us a fighting chance and will help us on the path to sustainability.

“Our proposal is based on listening to thousands of people across the United Kingdom to ensure it meets their needs. We have worked hard to come up with a proposal that is good for our customers, good for our people and would allow Royal Mail to invest in products and services that the UK wants.

“We have serious concerns that the urgency of the situation is not properly recognised by Ofcom. With no need for legislation there is no need to wait.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “At this stage, we’ve not made any proposals to change the universal postal service. We’ve set out evidence suggesting it risks becoming unsustainable if we don’t take action, as people send fewer letters and receive more parcels. 

“We’ve laid out some potential options so there can be a national discussion about its long-term future. We’ll carefully consider all the feedback received, and provide an update in the summer.”

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