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UK healthcare staff call in sick to avoid using car as cost of fuel soars, union says | Cost of living crisis

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Low-paid health and care workers are calling in sick because they cannot afford to fill their cars with petrol to travel to work, the head of the UK’s largest trade union has warned.

Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the UK economy was “steering into the wind” but cautioned against a “wage-price spiral”, as the cost of a tank of fuel hit a record £100.

Christina McAnea, general secretary of the public services union Unison, said some of her members were likely to strike in the coming months, faced by real-terms pay cuts as the cost of living crisis bites.

“[Petrol price rises are] having a big impact on people with jobs that mean they have to travel. So community health workers, health visitors, care workers, social workers … are saying they just cannot afford to do their jobs any more,” she said.

“We’re actually hearing of people who would rather phone in sick because they don’t have the money to fill up their cars and do their jobs. And more and more people are leaving public services, even in local government. There’s huge vacancies across local government.”

She said of the prospect of strike action: “We don’t want to bring low-paid workers out on strike. But if there’s no alternative, what else can people do?

“If we’ve got a government where they are getting 2-3% pay increases and we’ve got inflation running at 10% or even more by the end of the year and they already pay a disproportionate amount of their income on fuel, housing, energy and food costs, if you are low paid worker … that has a huge impact on people.”

McAnea, who was a housing officer in Glasgow before becoming a full-time union official, said Unison is already balloting local government staff in Scotland over industrial action, which could lead to schools being closed.

“We don’t want to inconvenience people and we know that has a huge impact on people. But there comes a point where there’s no alternative,” she said. “The same thing could happen in England and Wales. I’m not saying there will be strikes tomorrow, but there’s a lot of anger out there, and people become more desperate.”

Her warning came as train strikes by member of the RMT union are expected to cause travel chaos later this month. Two other unions representing drivers and support staff, Aslef and the TSSA, are also considering industrial action later in the summer, raising the threat of a complete national shutdown.

The prime minister has previously pledged to transform the UK into a “high wage economy” but he warned on Thursday that matching wage rises to inflation in the current circumstances risked a 1970s-style “wage-price spiral”.

Thinktank the Organisation of Economic cooperation and Development (OECD) warned this week that UK growth could grind to a halt next year, making it the weakest developed economy aside from Russia, but with inflation still painfully high.

Ministers are expected to announce a raft of public sector pay deals in the coming weeks, including for nurses.

In evidence to the NHS pay review body earlier this year the government said there was “extremely limited room for any further investment in pay” and that “financial restraint” was needed.

The TUC is warning that pushing through the 3% settlement the Department of Health and Social Care has suggested would amount to a £1,600 real-terms pay cut for nurses, with inflation running at 9% and expected to go higher.

Alongside the GMB and Unite, Unison submitted a pay claim for local government workers, including school staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this week, asking for a pay rise of at least £2,000.

McAnea said: “Pay restraint is completely inappropriate when we are talking about people in local government. About 50% of workers in local government earn less than £25,000 a year.

“If you’re a care worker, if you do a job out in the community and you have to go and visit people, and it’s costing you £100 to fill up: not possible.”

Her warning came as Johnson urged petrol retailers to “be responsible” and “look after consumers”, amid concerns in government that the 5p reduction in fuel duty announced in Rishi Sunak’s spring statement was not being passed on in full to motorists.

“We are watching it, and of course we hope that corporations will be responsible,” Johnson said, as he delivered a speech about the economy in Blackpool.

Figures from the data firm Experian Catalist show the average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a record 182.3p on Wednesday.

That was an increase of 1.6p compared with Tuesday, taking the average cost of filling a 55-litre family car to £100.27. The RAC’s Simon Williams called it, “a truly dark day today for drivers”.

It is understood ministers are examining the possibility of naming and shaming retailers that are taking advantage of surging global energy prices to increase their margins.

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A government source stressed the measure had been used successfully before – with profiteering on Covid tests, for example – but warned it was more complex with fuel due to prices fluctuating at pumps as much as several times a day.

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has already written to retailers urging them to behave responsibly, and asked the competition watchdog to examine at the issue.

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Imprisoned for being HIV positive | podcast | News

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“The police come to my job, they’re telling me that this gentleman that I had dated is pressing charges on me because I didn’t tell him I was HIV positive.”

Lashanda Salinas faced criminal charges in Tennessee after her former partner accused her of exposing him to the HIV virus. Although Lashanda had been on medication since she was a teenager, and says she was open about her status, she was convicted and is now on the sex offender registry.

“I had to take a lie detector test every six months to prove to them that I [hadn’t] been around a child,” Salinas tells Hannah Moore.

“Everyone’s perception is that if someone’s having sex with someone who is HIV positive, they must be being deceived or they must be being tricked into doing that, and that is so not the case,” says Robert Suttle, who was also convicted in Louisiana after being reported by his former partner.

“You’re being arrested, you’re losing your job, you’re losing your livelihood, over something related to your status,” Suttle tells Moore. “So it’s almost like you’re guilty before you’re even proven innocent when it should be the opposite.”

Campaigners say these laws are reinforcing stigmas about HIV, and discouraging people who don’t know their status from getting tested. Edwin Barnard, the Executive Director of the HIV Justice Network, tells Hannah Moore how these laws, often relics of the 1980s before medication was available, are a danger to public health. Reporter Amelia Abraham explains why ethnic minorities and women are disproportionately criminalised.



Members of the Aids Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP), Housing Works and GMHC holding a protest outside the New York District Attorney's office in Manhattan, US.

Photograph: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images

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Al Roker readmitted to hospital for blood clots

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Beloved weatherman Al Roker has reportedly been rushed back to the hospital for blood clots, after being released just last week.

“Al was rushed to the hospital after Thanksgiving,” People reported Wednesday, citing an anonymous source. The source added that he’d gone by ambulance.

On top of that, the source said that the “Today” show weather anchor’s wife, journalist Deborah Roberts, had gotten locked out of her car when it malfunctioned, trapping her phone and belongings.

The 68-year-old Roker initially posted about his plight on Instagram on Nov. 18, saying he was hospitalized for blood clots in his leg and lungs but was in “recovery.” He was discharged on Thanksgiving, missing his first parade in 27 years.

Roker’s reprieve was short-lived. A day later, he was readmitted.

While he made it home in time to watch at least part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC — hosted by his “Today” colleagues Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie — the meteorologist also missed the Rockefeller Tree lighting on Wednesday.

The upstate New York tree’s illumination was again celebrated by Guthrie and Kotb, along with Craig Melvin and “Access Hollywood” anchor Mario Lopez.

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Independent inquiry over death of boy, 5, sent home from hospital | UK news

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An independent investigation is being launched into the death of a five-year-old boy whose family say he died from pneumonia after he was sent home from hospital because there were “no beds”.

Yusuf Mahmud Nazir died on 23 November after an infection reportedly spread to his lungs and caused multiple organ failure, resulting in several cardiac arrests.

The boy had complained of a sore throat on 13 November and his parents took him to their GP, who prescribed antibiotics.

They drove him to the emergency department of Rotherham general hospital in South Yorkshire the next day when his condition did not improve.

The family waited for hours before Yusuf was seen but he was sent home despite the doctor treating him saying “it was the worst case of tonsillitis he had ever seen”, according to his uncle Zaheer Ahmed.

The boy was distressed, struggling to breathe and could not swallow, his family say.

Yusuf’s condition worsened while he was at home and his parents called an ambulance and he was taken to Sheffield Children’s hospital. However, his condition deteriorated and he died.

Ahmed told Sky News on Saturday that he “begged and begged” for his nephew to be admitted to Rotherham general hospital but was told “there are no beds and not enough doctors”.

Labour MP Sarah Champion, who represents the family’s constituency in Rotherham, said the inquiry needs to find out “what went so horribly wrong”.

She said: “The Nazir family have been very clear they want no other family to suffer the death of a child in such appalling circumstances. We need to quickly find out what went so horribly wrong. I have worked with them to secure a rapid and independent inquiry.

“We need to make sure the inquiry covers the primary and secondary care organisations involved in Yusuf’s diagnosis, care and treatment.”

Champion added that she has been assured an independent investigation is being launched.

She said: “I have been assured by the chief executive of Rotherham NHS foundation trust that an independent investigation is being launched and I will be supporting Yusuf’s family to ensure that it fully investigates their concerns.

“The circumstances of Yusuf’s death are deeply troubling. It is vital that the investigation considers the role of each organisation involved in his care and, crucially, communication and coordination between them. We need [to] ensure that changes are made to prevent this from ever happening again.

“I will be doing all that I can to continue supporting Yusuf’s family at this extremely difficult time and make sure their wishes are respected.”

Ahmed told Sky News he wants a “full independent investigation out of the NHS”.

The boy’s uncle said the health service “want to do an external investigation by someone from the NHS outside of the district”, adding: “We are still in the talks and we are requesting that it is completely external.”

The Hospital chief executive, Dr Richard Jenkins, who met Ahmed and apologised to him and the family, said investigators from outside South Yorkshire would review his care, the BBC reported.

In a letter to Champion, Jenkins said he was working with NHS England to “identify appropriate independent investigators”.

He said: “It is vital that a thorough and independently conducted investigation takes place as soon as possible so the family can have answers to their concerns and we can identify where changes need to be made.”

He said the family would be involved in deciding the terms of reference for the investigation.

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