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Preview: Latest news from the public and voluntary sectors, including health, children, local government and social care, plus SocietyGua

Society | The Guardian



Latest Society news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Sun, 04 Dec 2016 02:18:09 GMT2016-12-04T02:18:09Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2016
 



Run the NHS and social care like John Lewis, says Frank Field

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:00:08 GMT2016-12-02T06:00:08Z

Ex-Labour welfare minister says new integrated service run on a mutual basis should be funded exclusively by national insurance contributions

The NHS and social care would be run by a John Lewis-style mutual organisation and funded by higher national insurance contributions, under a radical shakeup proposed by Labour MP Frank Field.

The former welfare minister says a looming financial crisis could be tackled by making the NI system more progressive and earmarking the entire proceeds to pay for the health service and care for the elderly.

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Minimum UK alcohol pricing gets backing of official health advisers

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:19:38 GMT2016-12-01T22:19:38Z

Policy rejected by Westminster but backed by SNP in Scotland seen as vital to tackling medical and economic toll of drinking

A review commissioned by the government from its health advisers has concluded that ministers should introduce minimum unit pricing of alcohol to tackle the grim medical, economic and social toll of drink-related harm.

The in-depth study(pdf) has found that drink is now the biggest killer of people aged between 15 and 49 in England. It accounts for 167,000 years of lost productivity each year and is a factor in more than 200 different illnesses.

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If austerity is over, why can’t Britain afford proper social care? | John Harris

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:00:08 GMT2016-12-02T06:00:08Z

The services hit hardest by Tory cuts are those that allow the needy to live with dignity. Surely they should now be the highest priority

The 82-year-old man said he wanted to remain anonymous. Then he spent half an hour telling me about the increasing difficulty of his day-to-day life. “I feel helpless,” he said. He lives alone around 40 minutes from London, and has a neurological condition that leads to long spells of physical weakness. He uses a wheelchair, and depends on the care workers at his sheltered housing development for assistance with some of life’s most basic tasks. Of course, it’s not just him. His flat is just one of 44.

Until recently, he said, there were several care workers there, but the numbers were cut. Seven or eight people once worked a busy morning shift; now there are never more than five, falling to two or three at other times, and a lone person at night.

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Libraries receive £4m fund as part of strategy to help secure their future

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:36:06 GMT2016-12-01T15:36:06Z

Cash for community projects comes as report calls for sector to be more innovative and raise awareness of services on offer

A new national strategy to help England’s hard-pressed libraries is to include a £4m innovation fund for projects that help disadvantaged communities.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a five-year strategy for libraries, which it said would help them improve and thrive in the 21st century.

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Prison officers pay deal agreed after protests

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:56:43 GMT2016-12-01T16:56:43Z

Justice secretary says deal, which has to be accepted by union members, ‘recognises the dedication of officers doing a tough job’

Hopes of resolving the prisons crisis in England and Wales have risen after the Ministry of Justice and the prison officers’ union reached a deal on improved pay and pensions.

The proposed package, which will be subject to a staff ballot, includes a £1,000 “retention and recognition” package for each officer, a reduction of up to three years in their retirement age to 65, and annual pay rises on top of performance-related pay increases for the next three years.

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Squatters evicted from building of company that works to stop squatting

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:17:20 GMT2016-12-01T14:17:20Z

The squatters say they wanted to shine a light on Britain’s homelessness crisis, and will all be homeless tonight following the eviction

More than 20 squatters who have been occupying the former headquarters of a property management company that works to keep squatters out of empty buildings, have been evicted.

The group who moved into the former head office of Camelot Europe in Shoreditch, east London two months ago to highlight housing inequality, were evicted by bailiffs just after 11am on Thursday.

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English outpatient cancellations at record high of 7.68m in 2015

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:28:35 GMT2016-12-01T20:28:35Z

Appointments lost due to rising demand and funding shortage show strain on NHS, says Royal College of Physicians

Hospitals are cancelling record numbers of outpatient appointments, which doctors say illustrates the unprecedented strain on the NHS.

Related: Demand for NHS care is dangerously high, says thinktank

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Guardian Public Service Awards 2016 overall winner: Sevenoaks district council

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:05:11 GMT2016-11-30T07:05:11Z

Commercial property investments are helping Sevenoaks fill its funding gap and become financially self-sufficient

Sevenoaks council has become England’s first financially self-sufficient local authority - despite unprecedented public sector cuts threatening the future of services.

The Kent district council’s ground-breaking financial independence uniquely frees it from reliance on its dwindling government grant to run services.

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MPs damn US firm over 'cut first, think later' approach to tax credit claimants

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:01:32 GMT2016-12-01T00:01:32Z

Concentrix and HMRC castigated by Commons committee after fraud reduction strategy saw thousands wrongly stripped of benefits

MPs have questioned whether private companies should be barred from providing core welfare services after an aggressive attempt to reduce tax credit fraud by US firm Concentrix saw thousands of low-income families wrongly stripped of benefits.

The cross-party House of Commons work and pensions committee castigated both Concentrix and HM Revenue and Customs for a series of disastrous errors that amounted to “a gross failure of customer service”.

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Growing crisis on UK streets as rough sleeper numbers soar

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 00:05:02 GMT2016-12-04T00:05:02Z

Charities raise concerns for homeless people over recent deaths and falling temperatures

Jason Nash wears all three of his jackets and both his pairs of jeans at the same time. His sleeping bag doesn’t look like it has the greatest filling but he tries to get inside the stairwell of a block of flats to sleep when he can so at least he doesn’t get wet if it rains overnight.

Now 26, Nash has had only sporadic periods of living under a roof since he left care. He has a heroin and crack problem which costs him around £60 a day. “When I’m off my nut I can sleep. I don’t think you can live on the streets sober. It’s cold,” he says.

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Sick children moved as NHS intensive care units run out of beds

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 21:30:32 GMT2016-12-03T21:30:32Z

Parents urged not to panic and planned operations delayed to cope with ‘record demands’ as winter sets in

Seriously sick children are having to be transported long distances to receive intensive care this weekend because of a lack of beds in major cities.

In England, 85% of beds available in paediatric intensive care units were full on Friday night. But some units in cities including London and Leicester have been forced to declare themselves as “at capacity”. Planned operations are, in some cases, being delayed to prepare for any possible emergencies, as the system shows signs of serious strain as winter starts to bite.

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Revealed: the millions paid to social care companies | Daniel Boffey

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:36:34 GMT2016-12-03T20:36:34Z

Investigation into five biggest firms finds some owners were paid handsomely while an increasing number of services require improvement

An investigation into the five biggest firms providing homecare services in the UK has found millions of pounds has been paid to some owners amid a crisis in standards of care.

An analysis of published reports from the Care Quality Commission, the care regulator for England, reveals that of the 192 domiciliary care services run by major companies, and inspected over the last two years, 80 were found to “require improvement”, with eight found to be “inadequate” and placed into special measures.

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'We got this': Africans call on western donors to trust them on FGM

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:20:46 GMT2016-12-03T16:20:46Z

More than 200 donors, policy makers and FGM experts joined senate minority leader Harry Reid at Washington DC summit

A Kenyan expert pleaded with delegates at a US summit on female genital mutilation (FGM) on Friday not to waste any more time sending white men and consultants to Africa “to tell us how to stop this”.

“I am a village girl but I have a university education, I know my people, and how to reach them – we got this,” Domtila Chesang from West Pokot, told the high-level event in Washington DC, hosted by senate minority leader Harry Reid.

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The oldest people who have ever lived – in data

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 09:00:18 GMT2016-12-03T09:00:18Z

Italy’s Emma Morano, the world’s oldest person, is among 45 people alive today who have reached 111 or older – but she still has a few years to go until she catches up to Jeanne Calment, who made it to 122

When Emma Morano celebrated her birthday this week, well-wishers used three number-shaped candles on her cake – rather than the 117 regular ones it would have required otherwise.

Morano is the world’s oldest verified living person, and the last person alive known to have been born in the 1800s. She lives in Verbania, northern Italy, and attributes her longevity to the number of eggs she eats (two a day, in case you’re wondering).

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We still need humans to identify sexually explicit images online – for now

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 08:00:16 GMT2016-12-03T08:00:16Z

Jeremy Hunt’s claim that technology could soon automatically spot and block ‘sexting’ among under-18s is a little premature, if not inconceivable. But we still rely on real people to identify images of abuse online, and it’s no easy job

When Peter, an analyst at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), is on “hashing” duty, he might look at 1,000 images of child sexual abuse in a single day. His job is to filter them. Some of the photographs the IWF picks up on its trawls of the web, or that members of the public send to the organisation, fall outside criminal boundaries: one might, for example, show a toddler working on a sandcastle. Others depict monstrous abuse. Sitting in an upstairs office in a Cambridge business park, with the blinds drawn for precaution, Peter – one of 13 analysts at the IWF – dutifully clicks through the daily queue of images and videos, marking the difference. Every hour he takes a break. “Sometimes you see something that takes you by surprise,” says the former RAF intelligence analyst, “and you have to take a long sit-down.” But each photo he hashes as abusive – from Category C (indecent) to Category A (penetrative) – can swiftly be blocked wherever it appears on the public internet. That is why Peter, a father of two, does the job.

On Tuesday, Jeremy Hunt suggested it might not be necessary for much longer. Technology exists, he said, that can “identify sexually explicit images and prevent [them] being transmitted”; this could facilitate a complete bar on sexting for under-18s. Well, says Peter, he isn’t redundant yet. “It would be amazing,” he says, in a room across the hallway from where IWF staff have just finished a mindfulness session, “if there was a magic brush that could do this kind of job.” Almost all of the “hashing” process runs automatically. The IWF, along with many police forces, uses PhotoDNA, a service Microsoft makes freely available to them. Once an analyst such as Peter has set it in motion, the software takes a digital fingerprint of the image (the “hash”), and adds it to a list of 130,000 the IWF has logged so far. Running the list against all the images uploaded to their platforms, Google, Facebook and Twitter – among others – locate and wipe out any replicas they may inadvertently be hosting. In the past, paedophiles could mark or change the file format of a photograph to fool the hash. But since PhotoDNA was released in 2009, that has become harder. Analysts now spend less time on the same, endlessly recurring stock of images.

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Alcohol-related crime, lost output and ill health costs UK £52bn a year

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:23:38 GMT2016-12-02T19:23:38Z

Treasury urged to set minimum pricing to reduce alcohol-related harm as research finds cost to taxpayer is twice old estimate

Doctors are urging Philip Hammond to raise the price of alcohol to tackle the “scourge” of drink-related harm after it emerged that crime, ill health and lost productivity cost up to £52bn a year, far more than previously thought.

They want the chancellor to increase the price of cheap, potent drinks such as high-strength white cider, which are mainly consumed by heavy drinkers, homeless people and underage drinkers.

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Power of psychedelic drugs to lift mental distress shown in trials

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:37:06 GMT2016-12-02T17:37:06Z

In 1970 US authorities said drugs like LSD had no medical use, but two tests may just have proven that wrong

When Aldous Huxley was dying in 1963, he asked his wife to inject him with LSD, and he passed away, she wrote afterwards, without any of the pain and distress that cancer can cause in the final hours.

“All five people in the room said that this was the most serene, the most beautiful death,” Laura Huxley, a psychotherapist, wrote to other members of his family.

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Rough sleeping on rise in Birmingham after cuts to homelessness services

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:57:56 GMT2016-12-02T16:57:56Z

Charities, outreach workers and the council all view ‘frightening’ levels of rough sleeping as a result of local authority cuts

The body of a 30-year-old homeless man was found at the back of a dark loading bay beside the Birmingham New Street railway station car park on Tuesday night, the coldest of winter so far. There are no flowers at the place he died, but the flattened, damp cardboard boxes where he slept are still there, along with a couple of woollen hats and a pair of green socks.

The man has not been named and none of the homeless people who sleep on the surrounding streets are quite sure who died. Police say he was a drug user. Charity workers fear his death is the inevitable consequence of radical cuts to homelessness services, which have led to a new rough-sleeping crisis in the city.

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Eating disorders: what is treatment like where you live?

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:49:49 GMT2016-12-02T15:49:49Z

Do you feel that local NHS services are up to scratch? Share your experiences with us

NHS Digital figures show that hospital admissions for eating disorders in England are increasing. The number of deaths in England and Wales from eating disorders has also risen (from 17 in 2014 to 28 in 2015), according to statistics from the Office of National Statistics.

But treatment is patchy. Northern Ireland has no specialist eating disorders unit. Patients are treated in the community but this is currently under review. Wales also has no single condition eating disorder units, although they developing specialist community eating disorder teams for adults. In England there are 186 beds for adolescents and children in need of inpatient care.

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Being bisexual is on the up – so how come people think I just can’t decide?

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 09:00:17 GMT2016-12-03T09:00:17Z

When I came out I thought I had to renounce the years of dating terrible guys

Lauren Jauregui, one fifth of US girl supergroup Fifth Harmony, followed me on Twitter the other day, and I screamed. OK, so she follows 12.7K accounts, including someone called Briann whose profile picture is a bin.

But still, this was a big deal for me, and not only because I worship Fifth Harmony with a passion second only to my love for One Direction (RIP, 1D). The real reason I got excited was that Jauregui had just published an open letter to Donald Trump voters on the Billboard music site, revealing that she was a “proud” bisexual, denouncing the racism of the president-elect’s campaign and expressing pride in her Cuban heritage.

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FGM is now considered child abuse, but where is the funding?

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:51:25 GMT2016-11-30T13:51:25Z

Despite death threats and intimidation, African women are working tirelessly to eradicate female genital mutilation on the ground. But not enough funding is getting though

With over 200 million women and girls affected around the world, ending female genital mutilation (FGM) takes enormous dedication, perseverance – and funding. In 2013, the UK Department for International Development’s pledge of £35m on the African continent was the largest amount to date by any individual donor to end FGM. However, it is unclear how much of this is reaching those activists who are leading social change efforts on the frontline.

UK government's pledge of £35m to end FGM is dwarfed by $34bn from the US to tackle Aids

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Alexandre Mars: States don’t have the money to do good. Business does | Saba Salman

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 12:59:49 GMT2016-11-29T12:59:49Z

The founder of Epic Foundation on Mark Zuckerberg, being called the French Bill Gates, and how technology can boost philanthropy

Tech entrepreneur Alexandre Mars is known in his native France as the French Bill Gates. Having made his fortune creating and selling tech startups, Mars, 41, founded Epic Foundation two years ago. It aims to encourage tech-savvy investors to donate to children’s and young people’s charities it has selected.

“We change the act of giving … Either I can go out and build schools myself. Or I can invest my money … leverage my skills, my network,” he explains. He is putting $2m into Epic, which uses technology to allow wealthy donors to fund and track a charity’s impact. Donors swipe an app to follow beneficiaries’ progress.

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We need to reframe the debate about poverty | Mary O’Hara |

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 12:00:48 GMT2016-11-29T12:00:48Z

Donald Trump’s election threatens vulnerable people, but tackling poverty also relies on convincing society that poor people are not ‘shirkers’

If you are poor or on the brink of financial hardship right now in Britain and the US, these are ominous times. After six brutal years of austerity in the UK, where the collective spectres of further cuts, pay squeezes and Brexit are set to leave households even worse off, there’s an atmosphere of profound insecurity for many. In the US, progressive policies and government programmes aimed at alleviating poverty have been under sustained ideological attack for decades – even when the evidence shows they work. But now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and a Republican-dominated Congress, anti-poverty advocates in the US are preparing for the fight of their lives. The new Congress has not even convened yet and already it looks as if one of President Obama’s most popular measures, an initiative intended to grant millions of workers more rights to overtime pay, could be an early victim. This comes only a few months after anti-poverty campaigners were celebrating encouraging figures on poverty reduction and the roll-out by numerous cities and states of higher local minimum wages.

Related: What will President Donald Trump do? Predicting his policy agenda

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Labour’s Teresa Pearce: ‘The social care crisis can no longer be ignored’

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 13:01:36 GMT2016-11-22T13:01:36Z

The shadow communities secretary says Labour’s vision is we all chip in to pay for tax-funded services so nobody falls behind

Fixing social care has to be the immediate social policy priority for the government, both in this week’s autumn statement and beyond, says Teresa Pearce. The crisis is so pressing, the human impact so profound, that it can no longer be ignored. “I don’t want elderly people or adults with complex needs living a life that isn’t living, and that’s what we have at the moment.”

Pearce, the shadow communities secretary, says that next year, 2017, will be “make or break” for social care. The system, she says, is teetering on the precipice: services are cut to the statutory minimum and rationed; an estimated one million people who need care get no support; providers can no longer afford to deliver services and are handing back contracts. “People were thinking that this [austerity cuts] was a wave we would ride and a better day would come, but it hasn’t, and it has just got worse.”

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Building affordable homes for rent is more vital than new roads

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:01:34 GMT2016-11-22T12:01:34Z

The chancellor needs to classify housing as an infrastructure project and boost its supply in the autumn statement

The outward manifestation of a housing crisis is right before our eyes, on a street near you, tucked anonymously in a doorway or lying on a park bench. Rough sleeping, according to the House of Commons library, has probably risen by 100% since 2010.

The government’s own figures to the end of June show homelessness up by 10% in a year – 15,170 households at the last estimate – while another 73,000 languish in temporary accommodation, a rise of more than 50% in six years. The knock-on effect of the crisis hits home ownership, the cornerstone of the Thatcherite revolution, which is at its lowest level in 30 years. And that’s in spite of the hundreds of millions diverted by the Cameron-Osborne government into subsidising the mortgages of the privileged few who can afford a deposit, rather than the majority who are unable to get a foothold on the housing ladder, let alone find a property to rent.

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The social care system needs a rescue package – to help the NHS survive

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 11:01:33 GMT2016-11-22T11:01:33Z

The chancellor has given no hint that his autumn statement will provide urgent funding to save tottering social care

It speaks volumes about government priorities that the Treasury briefed journalists ahead of Wednesday’s autumn statement that an extra £1.3bn would be spent on roads. Yet we have been kept in the dark over any rescue package for the tottering social care system, on which the chances of the NHS getting through the winter so critically depend.

As it happens, £1.3bn is also the price of a basic rescue for social care. It is the calculation by the Local Government Association (LGA) of the gap between what care providers in England say they need now to sustain threadbare state-funded services for older and disabled people and what councils say they can afford. To meet rising demand, inflation and the costs of the “national living wage” next year would require the same sum again.

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‘Cyber-bullies, obesity and stress … this is a scary world’ says the new top GP

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 00:01:22 GMT2016-11-20T00:01:22Z

In her first interview as chair of the Royal College of GPs, Helen Stokes-Lampard tells of the challenges facing GPs

‘ This is a scary world,” says Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the new leader of the UK’s 49,439 GPs. She is not referring to soaring obesity, or the fact that dementia has replaced heart disease as the nation’s biggest killer, or the truth that everyone’s risk of getting cancer has recently gone from one in three to one in two. She’s talking about social media, its downsides and its contribution to ill-health – mental ill-health specifically – and how more and more of its victims are ending up in GPs’ consulting rooms.

“I wouldn’t want to be a teenager nowadays. The social media pressures are phenomenal. People have become more judgmental about appearance. If I was a chubby teenager, the only people who knew were those around me. But now strangers on the other side of the world have a view on how teenagers look. Can you imagine how awful that must be? Unless you’ve got incredible resilience then that puts you at real risk. It grinds people down. It’s the inexorable pressure to be perfect,” adds Stokes-Lampard, who became the new chair of the Royal College of GPs this weekend.

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Jo Miller: ‘Councils can’t take more shocks to an already shocked system’

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 14:00:18 GMT2016-11-15T14:00:18Z

Doncaster chief executive and the voice of UK council bosses on the key to prosperity in Brexit Britain

Jo Miller, the chief executive of Doncaster council, insists that better times lie ahead for the town that was emblematic of Britain’s industrial age and whose residents, disillusioned with the broken promises of modernity, economic transition and European integration, voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU.

“We want to shape the skills system to ensure good growth, where nobody is left behind,” she says.

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‘Parents have to borrow from loan sharks to pay for their child’s funeral’

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 12:00:15 GMT2016-11-15T12:00:15Z

Proposed £10m scheme could alleviate the horror increasing numbers of grieving parents face of not being able to afford to bury their child

Any death is hard, but the unnatural experience of burying your own child is particularly traumatic. When 17-year-old Eva went into labour at 22 weeks she was worried. Her daughter was born, but didn’t take a breath before dying. This small fact, in an already hellish situation, became crucial later on. Eva worked 16 hours a week in a local shop in east London, but paying the capital’s exorbitant rents as well as earning little meant she was unable to afford the funeral costs. She applied for financial help from the Social Fund – state funding to help people on low incomes with one-off or occasional expenses such as funeral payments – but was informed by an adviser that Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) rules meant that as her daughter had not reached 24 weeks gestation, or taken a breath, she was classified as “medical waste” in bureaucratic terms.

Related: Avoid the funeral sting: how to die for less than £1,000

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Injecting natural oils for muscle gain could be deadly, doctors warn

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:54:11 GMT2016-12-01T17:54:11Z

Case of London man who suffered scarring and restricted function after injecting coconut oil ‘may be tip of the iceberg’

Bodybuilders seeking to enhance their physique by injecting natural oils risk lasting damage and even death, doctors have warned.

They fear that a case in west London in which a 25-year-old man suffered scarring and restricted function after injecting coconut oil may be the “tip of the iceberg”.

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Magic mushroom chemical psilocybin could be key to treating depression - studies

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:40:05 GMT2016-12-01T09:40:05Z

Immediate reduction in depression and anxiety for up to eight months seen in patients with advanced cancer given a single dose of psilocybin

A single dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, can lift the anxiety and depression experienced by people with advanced cancer for six months or even longer, two new studies show.

Researchers involved in the two trials in the United States say the results are remarkable. The volunteers had “profoundly meaningful and spiritual experiences” which made most of them rethink life and death, ended their despair and brought about lasting improvement in the quality of their lives.

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Baclofen: alcoholism 'cure' pill no better than counselling – study

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 02:43:16 GMT2016-12-01T02:43:16Z

Dutch researchers caution againts ‘premature’ use of medication, which is being prescribed in France to alcoholics and taken unofficially elsewhere

A drug being touted and prescribed as a cure for alcoholism may not work any better than counselling, Dutch researchers have said.

Without proof of its efficacy, prescribing high doses of the drug known as baclofen may be irresponsible, they warned.

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Junior doctors' sleep deprivation poses threat to patients, says GMC

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:01:32 GMT2016-12-01T00:01:32Z

Rising numbers of respondents to annual survey say their schedule and heavy workload leaves them lacking sleep

Trainee doctors in the NHS are often so sleep-deprived that they are in danger of harming patients, the medical profession’s regulator has said.

Increasingly heavy workloads and widespread staff shortages mean the UK’s 54,000 junior doctors are being left to look after wards of patients without proper experience, according to the General Medical Council’s biggest annual survey of trainee medics’ experiences

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Tiny minority of people with depression get treatment, study finds

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:01:32 GMT2016-12-01T00:01:32Z

In poorest countries, only one in 27 people with depression receive adequate treatment, according to researchers

Only a small minority of people with depression across the world, just one in 27 in the poorest countries, receive even minimally adequate treatment for their condition, a major study has found.

Researchers from King’s College London, Harvard Medical School and the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that even in wealthy countries only one in five people with depression received adequate treatment.

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Women with cancer 'should be told more about fertility options'

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 23:30:31 GMT2016-11-30T23:30:31Z

Patients are often unaware of how they can safeguard chances of having children and provision is haphazard, say experts

Girls and young women with cancer in the UK are not being given enough information about the options for safeguarding their chances of having children after treatment, fertility experts have said, while describing access to such technologies across the UK as “haphazard”.

“Cancers in young people are largely treatable with good long-term survival [but] one of the most common ill effects of cancer therapy is permanent infertility,” said Melanie Davies, a consultant gynaecologist at University College London Hospitals. “If you ask people who have had cancer who are young: ‘What is the thing that bothers you most?’, top of the list is infertility.”

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People with Alzheimer’s who enjoy singing songs from their youth | Letter

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 19:48:46 GMT2016-11-30T19:48:46Z

I read the heartwarming letter (29 November) in which Dennis Ruston said that even when his late wife had advanced Alzheimer’s she loved to join in the hymns on TV’s Songs of Praise and was word-perfect. Singing for the Brain groups, organised by the Alzheimer’s Society, allow people with dementia to join in songs from their youth. They normally each have a carer with them to support and encourage them to sing. Researchers have found that the brain’s musical pathways remain relatively unscathed by the illnesses that affect normal speech, and people who have lost their speech because of dementia, stroke and other conditions can often still access the words of songs. In such cases, singing is one of the few remaining activities that a dementia patient and their spouse can enjoy equally together.
Ann Wills
Ruislip, Middlesex

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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Antibiotics leave children 'more likely to contract drug-resistant infections'

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:29:39 GMT2016-11-30T18:29:39Z

Public health official warns children’s risk of drug-resistant infections 12 times higher in months following course of antibiotics

Children are at substantially increased risk of contracting drug-resistant infections in the months after taking a course of antibiotics, a leading public health official has warned.

Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England, told MPs on Wednesday that children are 12 times more likely to contract drug-resistant infections in the three months after being prescribed antibiotics, suggesting that their unnecessary use poses a direct risk to individual patients as well as a broader threat to society as a whole.

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CQC to investigate as mental health detentions hit 10-year high

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:03:50 GMT2016-11-30T17:03:50Z

Patients in England were detained for treatment under the Mental Health Act 63,622 times last year, NHS figures show

The health and social care watchdog is to launch an investigation after government figures revealed the number of detentions for mental health treatment had risen to its highest level in at least a decade.

Patients were detained in England for treatment under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 63,622 times in the year to April 2016, the statistics from NHS Digital showed, a rise of 47% since 2006, the year comparable records began, when there were 43,361 detentions.

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Ambulance target failures highlight NHS crisis, say health chiefs

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:10:54 GMT2016-11-30T13:10:54Z

NHS England says figures showing only one of UK’s 13 services met eight- minute target is a system-wide problem

Figures showing that every ambulance service in England failed to meet response time targets for the past 16 months are a sign of a system-wide problem, NHS England has admitted.

The figures, released under freedom of information rules, showed that of the UK’s 13 ambulance services, only Wales was reaching emergencies within the target time of eight minutes.

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Jeremy Hunt: social media should block sexting for under-18s – video

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:59:07 GMT2016-11-30T07:59:07Z

Jeremy Hunt says social media companies should use technological solutions to bar young people from sending sexually explicit messages. Giving evidence to the Commons health committee on suicide prevention efforts, the health secretary also calls for a crackdown on cyberbullying via the introduction of software that can detect when it is happening

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Ambulances too slow to reach seriously ill patients, says report

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:54:59 GMT2016-11-30T07:54:59Z

Strain of high demand means only one of UK’s 13 ambulance services meeting target to reach emergencies within eight minutes

Ambulances are failing to reach dying and seriously ill patients fast enough as the service creaks under the strain of high demand, according to a report.

Only one of the UK’s 13 ambulance services, the Welsh ambulance service, is meeting the target to reach patients with life-threatening conditions within eight minutes, a BBC investigation has found.

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Apprentice nurses could treat hospital patients in bid to tackle shortages

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:15:28 GMT2016-11-30T00:15:28Z

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt to announce plan to allow student nurses to train on the job rather than having to complete a university degree

Hospital patients could be treated by apprentice nurses under plans to be announced by Jeremy Hunt, sparking a new row about how the government is tackling shortages of health professionals.

The health secretary will say on Wednesday that student nurses can train on the job rather than having to complete a university degree.

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Looked-after children deserve more stability | Letters

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:34:37 GMT2016-12-01T18:34:37Z

In Scotland, where there are about 15,000 looked-after children (including looked-after children at home), we are committed to ending unacceptably long waiting times for a permanent home as experienced by so many children (Safety in numbers, 26 November).

Delaying decisions on a child’s permanent home can seriously impact on their life chances. While speed is of the essence, we need to be considered in our decision making, using all evidence available, and ensuring the child’s welfare is considered at every step.

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No country for old men and women, nor for children – shortcomings in UK care | Letters

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:52:54 GMT2016-11-29T19:52:54Z

As a former community matron, I was interested to see your report highlighting malnutrition admissions to hospital, sometimes termed “social admissions” (Hospital admissions for malnutrition triple in decade, 26 November). My 91-year-old mother fell and was admitted earlier this year, and no cause was found except that she weighed 39kg. Living alone, she had always done her own shopping and cooking. My weekly visits supplemented her fridge contents, but I was unable to persuade her to accept help. Following her fall, I persuaded her to accept help, and we can, luckily, pay for private care to visit her to encourage her to eat. I ask the carers to eat with her and ensure they have enough time to do so.

The lack of mention of social care in the autumn statement is fundamental, but we must remember that few, if any, local councils will fund care just to encourage nutrition. Loneliness has a huge effect on eating. In general, councils do not provide social care for someone who can “self-care” but who is not eating. Meals-on-wheels services do not provide company to eat, and some councils advocate a fortnightly provision of frozen ready meals, so there is not even the daily contact of someone delivering the meals.

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Tens of thousands of UK teenagers neglected at home, report says

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 00:01:33 GMT2016-11-29T00:01:33Z

Survey of year 10 pupils suggests one in seven experience some form of neglect, risking their physical and emotional health

Tens of thousands of teenagers in England are suffering neglect at home, putting their physical and emotional health at risk, according to a report from the Children’s Society.

A survey commissioned by the charity found that one in seven 14- and 15-year-olds had experienced at least one form of neglectful parenting, the equivalent of three students in every year 10 classroom.

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Chancellor wrong on social care funding, says former health secretary – video

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 12:50:25 GMT2016-11-27T12:50:25Z

Stephen Dorrell, a senior Tory and former health secretary, speaks to BBC One’s Andrew Marr about the Autumn Statement which was delivered by Chancellor Philip Hammond on Wednesday. Dorrell says that Hammond made a mistake in omitting any extra funding for social care from his plans, as the issue has a direct impact on A&E departments and the NHS

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Philip Hammond mistaken on social care funding – senior Tory

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 10:43:33 GMT2016-11-27T10:43:33Z

Former health secretary Stephen Dorrell ‘very disappointed’ chancellor dismissed calls for extra funding in autumn statement

Philip Hammond made a mistake in failing to give more funding to social care in the autumn statement, Stephen Dorrell has said.

The former Conservative health secretary and chair of the NHS Confederation joined other senior Tories, including fellow former health secretary Andrew Lansley and Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health select committee, in expressing fears that the NHS was suffering because of shortages in social care provision.

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More than 250,000 people in England are homeless, says Shelter

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:00:31 GMT2016-12-01T00:00:31Z

Charity marks 50th anniversary by revealing homelessness hotspots including Birmingham, Bristol, Luton and Slough


More than 250,000 people in England are homeless or lack a permanent place to live, according to Shelter.

Releasing figures to mark its 50th anniversary on Thursday, the charity estimated that there were almost 255,000 people living in hostels and other types of temporary accommodation, or sleeping rough on the streets.

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Charity traces the children in famous Sixties slum photos

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 00:05:46 GMT2016-11-27T00:05:46Z

After detective work by Shelter, the subjects recall the poverty they endured

They were the images that shocked a nation into action. Staring out at the camera, often huddled together for warmth, the families cut shellshocked figures. Nick Hedges’s photographs of life in Britain’s slums provide a counter-narrative to the popular view of the swinging 60s, an era remembered as a time of great social progress.

Hedges’s fieldwork for the housing charity Shelter, along with Ken Loach’s 1966 drama-documentary Cathy Come Home, convinced MPs of the urgent need to tackle the dreadful housing in Britain’s inner cities, a programme delayed by the second world war. But what happened to Hedges’s subjects?

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Town v gown battle in Cambridge over green belt plan to solve housing crisis

Sun, 27 Nov 2016 00:05:45 GMT2016-11-27T00:05:45Z

City jobs boom brings need for more homes – but proposals could lead to the loss of protected land

It has all the elements of a Tom Sharpe comic novel, a town versus gown spat in which wealthy colleges, politicians and conservation groups slug it out to shape the future of Cambridge. Who emerges victorious will reveal much about how Britain could look decades from now.

The seeds of the row lie in the city’s economic success. Thanks to the draw of its university, Cambridge has become a magnet for technology and biomedical firms. But this brings attendant pressures. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire increased by 14%, from 240,000 to 275,000, placing huge demands on housing. The average house price in the city is now above £500,000.

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Cosy Britain has a natural hygge | Letters

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 18:06:27 GMT2016-11-25T18:06:27Z

As an American reader I found Charlotte Higgins’ commentary on hygge fascinating (Long read, 22 November) because to me there is much about the UK that is quite naturally and intrinsically hygge without the importation of a uniquely Danish term and concept. British villages and many towns have an intimacy, cosiness and sense of comfort emerging from their walkability, architecture, natural beauty and density that is distinctive.

In contrast, American patterns of settlement can be characterised by a sense of openness, expansiveness and the illusion of infinity, where each home is generally larger than its UK counterpart and set further apart from neighbours, and in which backyards replace gardens and the freedom provided by space replaces the virtues of the small.

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London tops cost-of-housing survey at 14 times average earnings

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 00:01:47 GMT2016-11-25T00:01:47Z

Cambridge and Oxford follow the capital at over 13 times earnings while Glasgow and Liverpool have lowest income-to-price ratio

The average cost of a home in London is more than 14 times average earnings – the highest level on record, according to figures from property consultancy Hometrack. Oxford and Cambridge are not far behind, the company’s latest index of city prices indicates, with house prices at 13.5 and 13.6 times local earnings respectively.

A lack of homes for sale combined with demand fuelled by low mortgage rates has pushed up average prices in London by 86% since 2009, according to Hometrack, to an average of £482,000. The increase is far in excess of wage growth and means prices are 14.2 times the average London wage packet of £33,720 a year – the highest multiple since 2002.

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Housing gets £4bn boost to increase number of new homes

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 07:00:27 GMT2016-11-24T07:00:27Z

Government aims to build 40,000 additional affordable homes by 2021 – but OBR says it expects 13,000 fewer homes to be built over next five years

The chancellor committed almost £4bn to housing in Wednesday’s autumn statement, in a move he said represented a step-change in the government’s ambition to increase the supply of homes for sale and rent.

The money, which the Treasury said was new cash, will be spent through two funds: one providing money for infrastructure projects to make sites viable for building, the other providing money for affordable homes.

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Scottish homelessness charity plans village of low-cost eco homes

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 00:01:18 GMT2016-11-24T00:01:18Z

Social Bite, whose supporters include Leonardo DiCaprio, wants to build 10 houses as model for ending homelessness

The Scottish charity Social Bite, which has attracted celebrity support from the Oscar winners George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, has announced plans to build a row of low-cost, eco-friendly homes to help end the vicious cycle of homelessness.

The social enterprise, which runs a chain of sandwich shops across Scotland that train and employ homeless staff, is planning to construct 10 purpose-built houses in Granton, in the north of Edinburgh, in partnership with the council.

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Losing my husband inspired me to tackle farming's suicide problem

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 07:01:09 GMT2016-12-02T07:01:09Z

After the tragic death of my husband, I launched a foundation to improve mental health awareness among farmers in Wales

On 5 July this year my world was turned upside down. Until then I was an average 28-year-old, married with two children and a full-time job, juggling the stresses of everyday life.

But that morning I woke up to find my husband Daniel missing. He had suffered with his mental health for a long time, but I still did not expect what had happened. Daniel had taken his own life.

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Why would doctors and nurses put themselves through the ordeal of NHS management?

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 12:22:05 GMT2016-12-02T12:22:05Z

Jeremy Hunt wants to encourage more clinicians to take leadership roles, but his proposals won’t fix the problem

Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to distract attention from the growing problems across the health and care system betray a poor understanding of NHS management.

In his speech to the NHS Providers’ conference this week, Hunt asked whether the NHS “made a historic mistake in the 1980s by deliberately creating a manager class who were not clinicians”.

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Guardian Public Service Awards 2016 - in pictures

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:00:22 GMT2016-12-01T15:00:22Z

The Guardian Public Service Awards 2016 were held at One Marylebone, 29 November 2016. More than 300 guests, Guardian staff and sponsors joined the teams and individuals shortlisted for awards.

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The displaced tenants paying the true cost of an inhumane housing policy

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 07:01:09 GMT2016-12-02T07:01:09Z

Councils must commit to a more humane, thoughtful and cost-effective social housing policy than moving people away from jobs and homes

Moving social housing tenants from one council borough to another is nothing new: in 2007, residents reported being offered housing elsewhere. But a three-pronged policy shift has intensified and increased the number and distance of placements: rising rents, the benefits cap, and new powers under the Localism Act 2011. The latter allows councils to offer out-of-borough placements and discharge their duty to house residents if they refuse such an offer.

New research released exclusively to the Guardian, by Kate Hardy at the University of Leeds and Tom Gillespie at the University of Sheffield, offers a snapshot of the lives of people in the east London borough of Newham offered placements outside their areas.

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We could all be Daniel Blake: social workers stand with disabled adults

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:22:09 GMT2016-12-02T09:22:09Z

A new charter, written by disabled adults and social workers, calls for collaboration to tackle pressure on welfare services

I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s study of a working man’s descent into poverty and despair while battling to receive disability benefit, has rightly caused disquiet at the ways the systems and services established to provide welfare can instead cause misery. Many who work in society’s “safety net” – social workers among them – have tried since the film’s release to show that they are shoulder-to-shoulder with people who have been disempowered.

As the film was being created, released and watched, the British Association of Social Workers’ adults policy, practice and ethics group was attempting to address some of these issues. We set up a working group led by the national network of service users and disabled people, Shaping Our Lives, whose aim was to produce a charter to ensure disabled adults and social workers work together to improve wellbeing.

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Prison violence is the worst I have seen in my 30-year career

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:36:55 GMT2016-12-03T07:36:55Z

Cuts and overcrowding are making this a dangerous time, and we prison governors are being squeezed by both sides. Liz Truss must make changes fast

In my 29 years of working for the prison service – now called the National Offender Management Service – I have seen many things, from truly stunning acts of compassion to extreme acts of violence. But the violence I have seen in the last four years is the worst I have witnessed.

I am a national officer for the Prison Governors’ Association, the union that represents prison governors, and it is my duty to say that the prison service is in spiralling decline, brought about through savage staff cuts over the past four years, increased overcrowding, synthetic drugs, mobile phones and the imposition of doctrines about how we should manage.

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Dorchester hotel 'could be sued' over grooming rules for female staff

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:07:29 GMT2016-12-02T16:07:29Z

Legal and union experts say women could bring discrimination lawsuits against luxury London hotel

The Dorchester’s leaked list of grooming rules for female staff could open up the luxury hotel to lawsuits filed by current and former employees, critics have said.

A set of grooming demands was this week reported to have been emailed by hotel managers to employees after the five-star establishment received complaints about the general hygiene of its staff.

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Diabetic’s fatal condition mistaken for hangover at A&E

Sat, 29 Oct 2016 22:06:48 GMT2016-10-29T22:06:48Z

Ombudsman’s report details 100 cases of serious blunders by hospitals and GPs

The NHS ombudsman has severely criticised a hospital for disastrous mistakes that led to the death of a young woman after A&E staff mistook her diabetic complications for nothing worse than a hangover.

The doctor said 'I think she's just got a hangover and needs to sleep it off'. I feel badly let down

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A eulogy to the NHS: What happened to the world my generation built?

Wed, 04 Jun 2014 18:03:00 GMT2014-06-04T18:03:00Z

In 1926, Harry Leslie Smith's sister died of TB in a workhouse infirmary, too poor for proper medical care. In 1948, the creation of the NHS put a stop to all that. In an extract from his new book, Harry's Last Stand, he describes his despair at the coalition's dismantling of the welfare state

A midwife with a penchant for gin delivered me into the arms of my exhausted mother on a cold, blustery day in February 1923. I slept that night in my new crib, a dresser drawer beside her bed, unaware of the troubles that surrounded me. Because my dad was a coal miner, we lived rough and ready in the hardscrabble Yorkshire town of Barnsley. Money and happiness didn't come easily for the likes of us.

Considering the hunger, the turmoil and the squalor in Britain during the early years of the 20th century, it was miraculous that I lived to see my third birthday. That I survived colic, flu, infection, scrapes and bangs without the benefits of modern sanitation, hygiene or health care, I must give thanks to my sturdy peasant genes. As a baby, I was ignorant of the great sorrow that enveloped England and Europe like a damp, grey fog. The nation was still in mourning for her dead from the world's first Great War. It had ended only five short years before my arrival. Nearly a million British soldiers had been killed in that conflict. It had begun in farce in 1914 and ended in bloody tragedy in 1918. In four years, that war killed more than 37 million men, women and children around the world.

Continue reading...Harry Leslie Smith: 'The ­creation of the NHS made us understand that we were our brother’s keeper.' Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianHarry Leslie Smith: 'The ­creation of the NHS made us understand that we were our brother’s keeper.' Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian


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Sexuality today: how we embarked on a new age of freedom and tolerance

Sat, 04 Jun 2016 21:10:21 GMT2016-06-04T21:10:21Z

From Cara Delevingne to Kristen Stewart, gender-fluid relationships, particularly among women, are on the rise. Have we reached a tipping point?

Kristen Stewart, the actor, is photographed at Cannes holding hands with her ex-girlfriend Alicia Cargile. Supermodel Cara Delevingne kisses her girlfriend, the singer St Vincent, on the front row at London fashion week. Seventeen-year-old Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg uses the Teen Vogue Snapchat account to describe how “bruising” it has been “fighting against my identity as a black bisexual woman”. Model, DJ and actor Ruby Rose describes herself as “very gender fluid”, adding: “I feel more like I wake up every day sort of gender neutral.”

Twenty years ago these stories would have been accompanied by prurient “oohs” and much vivid speculation over what message these women were trying to send. Today such moments are everywhere, a sign that increasingly we define ourselves in less structured, more mutable ways.

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Cancer tumours destroyed by berry found in Queensland rainforest

Wed, 08 Oct 2014 02:43:16 GMT2014-10-08T02:43:16Z

Drug derived from the fruit of the blushwood tree kills cancerous tumours long-term in animals in 70% of cases

Scientists have managed to destroy cancerous tumours by using an experimental drug derived from the seeds of a fruit found in north Queensland rainforests.

The drug, called EBC-46, was produced by extracting a compound from the berry of the blushwood tree, a plant only found in specific areas of the Atherton Tablelands.

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For UK women in low-paid jobs, a second child is a mixed blessing

Sat, 06 Aug 2016 19:52:08 GMT2016-08-06T19:52:08Z

Lack of childcare means mothers have to stop working and see their incomes fall, according to LSE study

One child is manageable for working mothers, but the addition of a second can have a serious financial impact on those towards the bottom of the earnings ladder.

A new study finds that, while the addition of a second child has little effect on the working hours of mothers in skilled jobs, it has a substantial and negative effect on low-skilled women who are forced to reduce their hours considerably or even give up their jobs altogether. The findings reinforce the view that there is a shortage of affordable childcare in the UK, despite successive government attempts to help women into work in recent years.

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Prince Harry and Rihanna take HIV tests on World Aids Day

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:01:54 GMT2016-12-02T00:01:54Z

Duo had finger-prick procedure at a HIV drop-in centre targeting men in Barbados capital in effort to raise awareness

Prince Harry and Rihanna have taken HIV tests together in Barbados to raise awareness of the virus on World Aids Day.

The pair, who appeared on stage together on Wednesday night at Barbados’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of independence, had the finger-prick procedure during a visit to a HIV drop-in centre targeting men in the capital, Bridgetown, on Thursday.

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Thunderstorm asthma was 'world's worst' as Victoria set for more rough weather

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 02:08:17 GMT2016-11-30T02:08:17Z

Keep medication close at hand, says state’s chief health officer, after death toll from last week’s event rises to eight

The deadly thunderstorm asthma that struck Melbourne was the worst ever recorded anywhere in the world, a doctor has said, amid warnings that the forecast of more stormy weather meant people had to be vigilant.

As the death toll from last week’s storm rose to eight, respiratory physician Michael Sutherland said last week’s event was the most severe doctors had ever seen.

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