Long delays to NHS cataract operations leave elderly at risk

New data reveals badly missed targets despite increased use of private sector providers

People with poor eyesight are being forced to wait almost six months for operations on the NHS to remove cataracts, official figures reveal.

Patients in Herefordshire are facing average delays of 168 days – five months and 17 days – for cataract surgery, according to data collected by NHS Digital, the health service’s statistical arm. Waiting times in Great Yarmouth and Waveney in Norfolk are the second worst in England at 163 days, while they now average 154 days in North Lincolnshire.

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Summer holiday rush as deals spark last-minute travel boom

Busiest weekend on record expected as Britons grab cut-price breaks after Brexit uncertainty

The great British holiday getaway is usually the most anticipated weekend of the year, a culmination of months of fretting and planning. But this is the year of the last-minute summer.

Huge numbers of people have delayed making bookings thanks to a messy cocktail of weather, politics and a plunging pound. Travel agents, tour operators, hotels and B&Bs all say they have been battling Brexit uncertainty to get people to make bookings for months.

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Prices rise for British tourists as Brexit puts the pound in the shade

Fighting talk on Brexit from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson has inevitably hit the value of sterling

Sun, sea and sinking sterling. News of a fresh decline in the value of the pound was greeted with forbearance by travellers at Luton airport last week. The currency has been under pressure at various times since the referendum, having fallen by 14% against the euro since the vote, and it hit a six-month low of €1.105 last Wednesday in the wake of renewed pledges by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt over pursuing a no-deal Brexit.

Against the US dollar, sterling took even more of a battering last week, falling at one stage to below $1.24.

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Dazzling views and a boy wizard keep magical rail route on track

Robin McKie takes a trip on the West Highland line as it marks its 125th anniversary. While tourists flock to the Harry Potter locations on the way, what future do locals see for the service?

A sign at Corrour rail station informs passengers there are no buses or taxis to help them with onward journeys. Given there are no roads here, the warning seems unnecessary. Corrour is Britain’s highest, most remote station and is surrounded by Rannoch Moor, a vast, desolate peat bog that stretches for tens of miles in every direction. The public can walk or camp here but they most certainly cannot drive.

Only the train can get you to Corrour – on the West Highland line which stretches through some of the UK’s most difficult terrain and which forced engineers – in the case of Rannoch Moor – to float their track on brushwood mats to get their rails over the boggy, watery soil.

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Minister vows to end segregated play areas in all new housing in England

James Brokenshire says developers should no longer be able to build play areas only accessible to people in more expensive properties

The government has announced it will follow Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, in banning segregated play spaces in all new housing developments across England.

James Brokenshire, the minister for communities, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was appalled by the examples of segregation he had seen and linked the issue to wider concerns about “poor doors”.

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From Clytemnestra to Villanelle: why are we fascinated by women who kill?

In both pop culture and reality, women killers both seduce and repel us. The writer behind The Archers’ gaslighting storyline explores our enduring obsession

About 2,500 years ago, an audience took their places at a theatre in Athens for the premiere of a new murder drama. The protagonist, a returning war hero, was savagely stabbed to death, naked in his bath. The crime was thought particularly heinous as the killer was the victim’s wife, Clytemnestra. Her name has become notorious for a uniquely feminine sort of villainy, and the story of the murder of her husband, Agamemnon, seen in Aeschylus’s play of the same title in 458BC, has become an archetypal domestic murder plot.

Even though female murderers are much rarer than male murderers in reality, the image of the female killer continues to fascinate. Killing Eve is just the latest example of popular culture’s preoccupation with attractive young women who conceal a dark psychopathy: Villanelle is the embodiment of the classic female killer, who both seduces and repels.

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Hundreds of children in England could be made homeless over summer

Housing crisis will mean 320 children placed in temporary accommodation, say councils

Hundreds of children face becoming homeless during the school summer holidays because of the housing crisis, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that 320 children in England could be placed in temporary accommodation over the next six weeks.

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The government is fuelling homelessness by freezing benefits as rents soar | Andy Street

It’s time to address a policy putting thousands at risk of living in poor accommodation or on the streets
• Andy Street is the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands

I left the job I loved at John Lewis to run to be the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands because I believed I could help restore pride in the region. That meant expanding the economy, and two years later, business growth is strong. However, alongside the cranes and new offices, rough sleepers are to be found in doorways and at mobile soup kitchens. Behind closed doors, there are thousands of people sleeping on sofas at the homes of friends or family, families in B&Bs and vulnerable people living in some of the worst-quality shared housing.

No one can take pride in that. We have made some progress in tackling homelessness, securing around £10m from the government to roll out Housing First, a model of homeless support developed in Helsinki, Finland. Some 73 homeless people have been given accommodation and support through the scheme since it was launched in the autumn. It’s a good start, but we need to go much further.

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