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Hospitals record 'busiest week ever' amid A&E pressure

Hospitals have admitted more people this week than in any previous week on record, NHS England said.

Pressures on A&E services continue to 'increase significantly', NHS England said. Credit: PA Wire

There were 111,062 emergency admissions in England last week - the highest number of emergency patients admitted since records began more than a decade ago.

Dr Barbara Hakin of NHS England said pressures on A&E services "continue to increase significantly".

"We have admitted more people to hospital this week (ending December 14) to take care of them than in any previous week on record," Dr Hakin said.

"I want to pay tribute to the staff dealing with that - they are doing a brilliant job.

"While we are now below the extremely high waiting time standards that we set ourselves, the service we provide remains robust."

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Military experts clash over move to lift fighting ban

A military historian has spoken out against the MoD's recommendation to lift the ban on female soldiers fighting on the front line.

Colonel Mike Dewar, who served in Cyprus, Borneo, and Northern Ireland, told the BBC that senior generals he has spoken to think the move is "complete and utter and total madness" and is "politically driven."

The senior military sources cited by Mr Dewar also insist that "99.9% of women do not have the upper body strength to pass the infantry physical examination or carry an injured soldier from the battlefield."

However, a war photographer who served with the RAF in Iraq and Afghanistan said that gender does not matter in a firefight.

Alison Baskerville, who is also a reservist photographer with the British Army, and is writing a book about women in the armed forces, described the decision as "a step forward" which could be "the start of a new era for British infantry".

Profumo affair witness Mandy Rice-Davies dies aged 70

Mandy Rice-Davies, pictured aged 18 Credit: PA

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died aged 70 after a short battle with cancer, her publicist said today.

It is with deep sadness that the family of Marilyn Foreman, also known as Mandy Rice-Davies, have confirmed that she passed away yesterday evening after a short battle with cancer. They have asked for their privacy to be respected and no further comment will be made.

– Hackford Jones PR spokesman

The former model and showgirl was a friend of Christine Keeler, whose affair with former government minister John Profumo in the early 1960s almost brought down the then-ruling Conservative government.

Rice-Davies, who was born near Llanelli and grew up in Solihull, became famous for a comment she made at the trial of Stephen Ward, who was accused of living off her and Keeler's "immoral earnings."

When prosecutors told her that Lord Astor denied an affair with her, she replied, "He would, wouldn't he?" - often misquoted as "Well he would say that, wouldn't he?".

Petrol price fall 'one of biggest in 25 years'

Petrol pump prices have experienced the third biggest fall in 25 years, new AA figures suggest.

The AA said the drop would help consumers spend more on other goods. Credit: PA Wire

The AA said that between mid-November and mid-December UK average petrol prices fell 6.6p to 116.32p a litre.

The drop does not include the latest 2p-a-litre reduction by the four biggest supermarkets, which took effect on Wednesday.

Only the October-November 2008 fall of 11.5p a litre and the August-September 2006 dip of 7.9p have been greater than the most recent decline.

Average diesel prices have also fallen 5.27p a litre to 122.16p over the mid-November to mid-December 2014 period, the AA said.

But experts have warned that the rapidly falling prices "carry a warning from the ghost of Christmas past" due to the parallels with the 2008 oil price crash.

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