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Doctors urge Boris Johnson to cancel relaxed Christmas restrictions to protect NHS

‘They can no longer claim to be protecting the NHS’

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A joint editorial post from the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal has called for the PM to ditch the household mixing planned for over Christmas.

The two medical journals have come together on a rare joint editorial which calls for prime minister Boris Johnson to scrap plans that allow household mixing over Christmas in order to protect the NHS.

The first joint editorial in 100 years, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal have called for the prime minister to change tactics due to the rising cases in England.

The BMJ is published by the doctors’ union, British Medical Association, and the HSJ is read by NHS staff, managers and professionals.

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It warns that hospital bed capacity risks being overwhelmed due to the Christmas relaxation of rules, calling on the government to ‘reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing […] in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave’.

Crucially, the journals point out that a third peak in Covid-19 will hit non-Covid treatments the hardest. They warn that it could ‘wipe out’ almost all the reductions in wait times that have been achieved in the past 20 years.

They added: “This joint editorial is only the second in the more than 100-year histories of The BMJ and HSJ.

“We are publishing it because we believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be protecting the NHS.”

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The prime minister confirmed a controversial five-day period of relaxed rules which will allow three different households to mix from December 23rd to December 28th, including overnight stays. 

London and other parts of the South East are now being moved to the highest tier from December 16th, and the falling cases of Covid elsewhere are beginning to flatten, causing the plan to come under scrutiny. 

Based on current projections, the joint editorial warns that hospitals in England could have ‘just short of 19,000 Covid patients on New Year’s Eve’, the same as the peak of the virus in April.

Stating that: “This figure, derived by extrapolating a straight line from December 5 to December 14 through to December 31, would be almost the same as the 18,974 peaks of the first wave on April 12.”

The journal also added scathing reviews of the government’s Test and Trace service, explaining: “‘NHS Track and Trace’, which has almost nothing to do with the NHS, continues to squander money on failure. So too does the mass testing of asymptomatic people using lateral flow tests that are not fit for purpose.”

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The joint editorial advises that rather than lifting restrictions, the UK should follow the cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

It goes onto explain that should a third resurgence of the wave be similar magnitude to the second the health service should manage. However, they add that this will only be the case if the resurgence starts at a similar caseload of Covid-19 inpatients as was in the beginning of the second resurgence, which was around 450.

They say that as the current restrictions continue to fail to control the virus, this figure will be more than 40 times higher. Adding to that is the additional demands of winter on the NHS.

In the past two weeks, despite much of the country in the highest form of restrictions – Tier 2 and  3 – the number of Covid inpatients has begun to rise again. This is despite the decline following the second lockdown on November 5th.

By December 5th, there were 12,968 inpatients, if the rate of decline had continued there would be 11,000 on December 31st. However, by December 14th – the latest data available – Covid bed occupancy is back to 15,053.

The journal concludes that unless something changes to this trajectory, England will have just short of 19,000 Covid patients on New Year’s Eve. 

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The impact of this will be felt most prominently by non-Covid patients as in order to manage a large influx of patients, staff and resources will have to be diverted from non-Covid patients. 

The journal highlights how much the NHS is currently overstretched, delivering the largest vaccination programme in its 72-year history as well as seasonal outbreaks of norovirus and increased admissions of frail older people. This is all during a time where staff absence is also at its peak. 

A particular concern is the impact this will have on staff, who have already worked through the hardest nine months of their professional lives. The journal explains that levels of burnout and sickness absence are likely to exceed those already experienced.

The journal concludes that the public should ‘mitigate the impact of the third wave by being as careful as possible over the next few months’. Adding that the government was too slow to introduce restrictions in spring and again in autumn. 

They explain that the government should review its ‘rash’ decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period. They should also review the tier structure.

It concludes: “This joint editorial is only the second in the more than 100-year histories of the BMJ and HSJ. We are publishing it because we believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be ‘protecting the NHS'”, and is signed Alastair McLellan, Editor, HSJ and Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, The BMJ. 


Paul O’Grady posthumously named Person of the Year by Peta

‘Peta urges everyone to follow his example and honour his memory by speaking up whenever they see an animal in need’

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@paulogrady / Instagram

The late TV star Paul O’Grady has been named Peta’s Person of the Year for his ‘lifelong determination to make the world a kinder place for animals’.

The animal rights organisation said ‘he never wavered in his commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us’.

O’Grady, who passed away in March this year aged 67, was a leading figure in a number of animal rights campaigns including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which he was an ambassador for.

@paulogrady / Instagram

He rose to fame as a comedian best known for his drag persona Lily Savage. He went on to host light entertainment shows and became the host of For The Love of Dogs, which showcased life at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The TV and radio star joined Peta in the 1990s to raise awareness about testing on animals, and urged the Lord Mayor of London to stop herding sheep across London Bridge in 2014.

He also raised awareness of the treatment of orcas kept in marine parks and joined a campaign to ban foie gras – a mousse or pate made from force-feeding ducks and geese.

Peta vice president Elisa Allen said: “Paul O’Grady once said that ‘it is our duty to treat animals with respect’, and he lived by his own principles every day by being a tireless animal advocate.

“Peta urges everyone to follow his example and honour his memory by speaking up whenever they see an animal in need.”

A statement from the Peta said: “Peta recognises and thanks Paul O’Grady for his lifelong determination to make the world a kinder place for animals.”

“He never wavered in his commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. We will always treasure his legacy of compassion,” it added.

O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio will be presented with the award on his behalf.

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Manchester’s historic Portico Library awarded huge grant to secure its future

The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building

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David Dixon / Geograph

The Grade II-listed Portico Library will receive almost half a million pounds to transform the historic building.

The funding has helped secure the future of the 218-year-old building – a much-loved gem standing proudly on Mosley Street.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the £453,000 will see the treasured library undergo a huge revamp and preserve its book collection. 

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During its development, local communities in Manchester will be invited to help work on the project.

With particular focus on environmentally sustainable architectural plans, it aims to unite all three original floors of The Portico Library for the first time in 100 years.

The ground floor will be transformed into a ‘Northern bookshop’ which will hold educational activities, with areas for dining, exhibitions areas and meeting spaces.

David Dixon / Geograph

While the upper floors will showcase the library’s incredible book collection and archives, which includes the first edition of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

John Carpenter, Chair of the Portico Library, said: “The news that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting The Portico Library’s bold scheme to open up and share its extraordinary heritage and collection, to Manchester residents and visitors, is a major cultural signal to Manchester, the North and the UK.”

David Dixon / Geograph

He added: “This visionary project, years in the making, fulfils our mission of working with the many people in Manchester to explore, share and celebrate their diverse stories and the city’s literary and global heritage.

“Embracing creativity, collaboration and inclusivity, the project will unlock the Library’s past to plan for the future. We would like to thank the National Lottery players who have made it possible to realise our vision.”

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Handwritten note with ‘plan to kill’ Brianna Ghey found in accused girl’s room

The note was found during a police search

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Cheshire Police

A handwritten note with alleged details of a ‘plan to kill’ transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was found by police in the bedroom of Girl X.

The crumpled paper note (pictured) was discovered by officers during a search conducted at the accused’s home in March, more than a month after the tragic death of the 16-year-old.

Brianna was found after being stabbed 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park, Warrington, earlier this year.

The teenager was discovered by dog walkers just after 3pm on Saturday, February 11th.

Cheshire Police

Girl X from Warrington and Boy Y from Leigh both deny murder. During the trial, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard how Girl X sent a picture of the handwritten note to Boy Y on February 3rd.

The note began with the header: “Saturday 11th February 2023. Victim: Brianna Ghey.”

It continued: “Meet Boy Y at wooden posts 1pm. Walk down to library…bus stop. Wait until Brianna gets off bus then the 3 of us walk to Linear Park.

“Go to the pipe/tunnel area. I say code word to Boy Y. He stabs her in the back as I stab her in the stomach. Boy Y drags the body into the area. We both cover up the area with logs etc.”

Cheshire Police

In her opening speech, prosecutor Deanna Heer KC told the jury: “It is clearly, the prosecution say, a plan to kill Brianna Ghey.” During the same search on March 17th, officers found a note found in a drawer headlined ‘plan’.

Details in the note continued: “Give them alcohol with sleeping pills.

“Slit throat. I kill her. Dismember body. Place pieces in bin bags, bury bags 7ft underground, bones including.

“Get her to go to Linear park, go to the hidden spot near the bridge I usually go to. Someone jumps out and restrains her (plan B). I kill her.”

During the search, police also found a computer tablet and a black notebook.

Cheshire Police

Jurors heard that written in the notebook was the word ‘anarchy’ on one page, and on another there was a list of ‘what is right and wrong’. Another page had a ‘spider diagram’ with ‘good and ‘evil’ in the middle.

The ‘legs’ of the diagram lead to the words ‘forgiveness, justice, morality, good, suffering, evil, sin and free will’, the court heard.

On another page there were the words ‘Valentine’s gifts’ and on another the words ‘revision HW’. Prosecutor Cheryl Mottram said: “Homework, perhaps.”

Written on another page were the words ‘types of serial killers’, with a list under the heading.

Brianna Ghey / Go Fund Me

Words underneath included ‘organised and disorganised’, ‘mass murder’, ‘psychotic’, ‘organised crime’ and ‘copy cat’. On another page were the words ‘films’, and ‘faves’.

Another page was headed with ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ and then a ‘list of characteristics’. There were also notes about ‘John Wayne Gacy’, the ‘killer clown’.

The notebook also had written inside it a note which read ‘potential threats’ and ‘people that need to go’.

Another page had Boy Y’s name on it followed by a ‘list of qualities or attributes’. Underneath was written the words ‘trustworthy, funny, sociopath, good sense of humour, very very smart, genius level and not sociable’. 

Mikey / Flickr

Officers also recovered a black purse inside a ‘cubby hole’ with a handwritten note inside.

The note read: “Friday 11th November, attitudes to forgiveness.” Jurors were told the note contained two names, including Gee Walker.

“Forgives her son Anthony’s killer,” it read. And continued: “Julie Nicholson, who could not forgive the terrorists who killed her daughter Jenny.”

Three handwritten notes were also found on the floor of the room. One read ‘serial killer facts’, with a ‘list of facts relating to serial killers’ including ‘killing themselves in police custody can be a final act of control’, ‘hedonism’ and ‘power and control orientated’.

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Other notes made were ‘cruelty to animals’, ‘bed wetting past age of five’, ‘USA has the most serial killers’, ‘lack of empathy for others’ and ‘can be superficially charming’.

One note read ‘Dr Harold Frederick Shipman, aka Dr Death’, followed by the words ‘classification, serial killer’.

And jurors were told there was also a note in relation to ‘Richard Ramirez, or the ‘Night Stalker’.

The trial, which began on November 27th at Manchester Crown Court, continues.

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