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The NHS stats on 18-week treatment time are the highest since records began in August 2007 (PA)


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Almost two million patients waited longer than 18 weeks for routine hospital treatment in June, the latest NHS figures show.

The figure is the highest since records began in August 2007, and the number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment in England rose to 50,536, the highest for any calendar month since February 2009.

But the overall number of patients admitted for routine treatments was down 67% in June compared to a year ago.

The NHS England figures also show a total of 153,134 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in June, down more than 20% from the previous year.

And urgent breast cancer referrals showed an even bigger drop, down 43% from 14,885 to 8,495.

Sara Bainbridge, head of policy and influence at Macmillan Cancer Support, said those figures were “worryingly low” and suggest “an alarming backlog of undiagnosed cancer”.

And Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “All signals are pointing towards a growing and alarming backlog of clinical need with patients waiting longer for operations and diagnostic tests. 

“Waiting times were dire before the pandemic and we are reaching some worrying new lows. 

“Especially concerning is that the low number of people starting cancer treatment after attending national screening programmes, which indicates that people also aren’t able to access screening or quick treatment. 

“This is incredibly concerning when we know that early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to saving lives.”

He added: “We can’t ignore the fact that there are undoubtedly patients not getting help who may desperately need it. 

“We supported the lockdown to suppress this horrific virus but the far-reaching consequences for wider health outcomes must not be ignored.”

And Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “Waiting times were at a record high before the pandemic and now, alongside worryingly low cancer referrals, they are through the roof.

“There is another health crisis looming in the UK and people will be rightly worried for their loved ones.

“With our health and care services facing an almighty backlog, we need urgent action.

“The Government must step up with a clear plan on how people will get the treatment they need, including an urgent recruitment strategy, or risk more lives being lost.”

COVID-19 EFFECT

The NHS statistics reveal A&E attendances at hospitals in England were down 30% last month compared with a year ago, saying this was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” with people still staying away because of the pandemic.

It follows a 33% fall in June, 42% in May and 57% in April.

More than half a million patients also had to wait more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test such as an MRI scan, ultrasound or gastroscopy in June 2020.

The equivalent number in June 2019 was just 40,099, which Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, called “scandalous”.

In response an NHS spokesman said: “NHS staff have worked around the clock to treat 108,000 people for coronavirus since the pandemic escalated in March, including record numbers getting help through NHS 111, whilst also providing nearly 10 million urgent tests, checks and treatment for non-Covid issues, and 85,000 treatment starts for cancer patients, in a safe way.

“Now that we are through the first wave, local NHS staff are restoring non-Covid services, which have the capacity to treat those needing urgent, emergency and other essential care, so nobody should be put off seeking help from the NHS when they need it, whether through NHS 111, their GP, a pharmacist or hospital.”

On the figures for cancer referrals they added: “Hospitals have successfully and quickly cared for patients urgently referred by their GP, with over 92% of urgent cancer referrals being investigated within two weeks, and 85,000 people starting treatment for cancer since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“More people are now coming forward for a cancer check, with 45,000 extra referrals this month, and the key point remains that anyone who is concerned about a possible symptom should contact their GP and get a check-up.”

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Trump’s ex-Russia adviser Fiona Hill: US increasingly seen as ‘object of pity’

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“We are increasingly seen as an object of pity, including by our allies, because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions,” Fiona Hill, who was a witness in the Trump impeachment hearings, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Tuesday during the Citizen by CNN 2020 conference. “We’re the ones who are creating all this. It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Asked whether the US is still seen as a model, Hill replied, “Unless we get our domestic act together, no.”

Her comments come on the heels of a recent Pew Research Center survey among 13 nations that found America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among its key allies, with part of the decline linked to the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What is really eroding our standing is what people are seeing happening here in the United States,” Hill, who was a national security adviser until she left the administration last summer, told CNN on Tuesday.

She said it’s the “bungled handling of Covid, on top of race relations, on top of our political polarization and the spectacles that we’re presenting to the outside world is what’s really pushing all of this.”

Hill said it would be “difficult” for NATO to survive under a second term of President Donald Trump, adding that the US needs to “revitalize our commitment to NATO.”

“Right now, most of our closest allies, not just partners and other major players, do not see the United States as leading. They see us as quite the contrary, as being so consumed with domestic problems that we really can’t do anything very much at all,” she said.

During congressional hearings in the 2019 impeachment inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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House hits pause on spending vote as Hill leaders resume talks

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Both Democrats and Republicans are eager to reach a deal to avert last-minute drama, though the two parties have squabbled for weeks over various funding and policy provisions in the continuing resolution, which would buy more time for negotiations on a broader spending deal.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, though he did not comment when asked if he’d spoken with Pelosi.

Without a spending agreement, top Democrats and Republicans would find themselves exactly where they don’t want to be just weeks before the election — perilously close to the Sept. 30 deadline with no agreement to keep the government open.

A deal had appeared to be coming together on Friday, including tens of billions of dollars in farmer payments that Republicans sought in exchange for $2 billion in pandemic-related nutritional assistance that Democrats wanted.

But last-minute objections to the trade relief — including Democratic concerns that the president is leveraging the money to boost his reelection chances — tanked the talks. House Democrats ultimately released stopgap legislation on Monday that lacked both provisions, drawing the ire of McConnell, who tweeted that it “shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need.”

Both Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding yet another government shutdown under President Donald Trump, and have supported a bill to extend funding through mid-December.

Senate Republicans on Monday said a lack of relief for farmers in the stopgap spending bill is problematic. But most stressed that it’s not worth shutting down the government in protest and said their side of the Capitol could still attempt to amend the bill.

“We could offer an amendment to try to put it back,” Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of the trade aid on Monday. “Or we could vote against the CR. But I’m for running the government. I’d prefer to keep the government running.”

Asked if Republicans would be willing to spend more on food-related assistance in exchange for the farm aid, Shelby said Tuesday: “I’d listen to reason on that.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, slammed the lack of assistance for farmers. But when asked if Republicans would shut down the government without it, he replied, “No.”

As of Friday, Democrats had dropped a request that would extend the Census Bureau’s Dec. 31 deadline to turn over apportionment data used to divvy up House seats to the president — potentially punting the final handling of census data to Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he’s elected this November. Democrats had also failed to secure $3.6 billion in election security grants.

The GOP demands for farm aid, however, have emerged as a sticking point for many rank-and-file Democrats, who have been increasingly irate about Trump’s blatant use of farm aid for political purposes. That includes a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wis., last week, where Trump touted the taxpayer money as if it were a gift from him.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 4 Senate Democrat and ranking member of the agriculture committee, this week criticized Trump’s use of the program as a “slush fund” and argued Republicans have been unwilling to agree to stricter guardrails around how the aid can be spent.

“This is not just a political fund for the election,” she said.

Helena Bottemiller Evich contributed to this report.

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Nicola Sturgeon Has Banned Household Mixing In Scotland And Claimed English Measures Do Not Go Far Enough

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)


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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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