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£37m cash boost to help tackle 'bed blocking'

A total of £37 million will be injected into local NHS trusts struggling to cope with high levels of 'bed blocking', the government has announced.

An extra £12m, topping up a £25m grant announced by the Department of Health, will be handed out to the 87 councils across England with the highest levels of delay in hospital discharges due to a shortage of social care places.

It is hoped the extra cash will help up to 3,500 more people leave hospital every week Credit: PA

It is hoped the extra cash will help up to 3,500 more people leave hospital every week by drafting in more carers and more equipment.

It comes after figures from NHS England showed more than 96,500 "bed days" were used by patients who should have been discharged in October last year - up a fifth since October 2013.

Social services have to be part of the solution to the high demand on hospitals at the moment. We know that they can help by getting people home more quickly when it is safe to do so once they have been discharged.

And we also know that the best social care can prevent some people from having to go to A&E in the first place by supporting the elderly to live with dignity and independence at home.

– Eric Pickles, Local Government Secretary

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Major air-sea search for fishing boat suspended

The Coastguard has said that a major air-sea search in the Channel for a fishing boat with four crew members on board has been suspended with nothing found.

Major air-sea search for fishing boat suspended. Credit: PA

Lifeboat and helicopter crews were stood down early this morning following a thorough search for the vessel which vanished in rough seas and gale-force winds.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the fishing crew members were non-UK nationals but was unable to disclose further details about their boat.

Royal Mail chairman who oversaw privatisation steps down

The man who oversaw the controversial privatisation of Royal Mail will be stepping down later this year, the postal firm has announced.

Royal Mail chairman Donald Brydon is to step down later this year Credit: PA

Chairman Donald Brydon, who has been in the post since 2009, will continue work until at least the annual general meeting in the summer, but a statement from the company revealed the search for his successor had already begun.

I am proud of what Royal Mail has achieved as a company in the last six years.

Our transformation is well underway and we are now a FTSE 100 listed company. I feel that now is the right time for me to make this decision.

– Donald Brydon, Royal Mail chairman

Shell quarter four earnings up to $4.2 billion

Energy company Shell has confirmed that its fourth quarter 2014 earnings have risen to $4.2 billion compared with $2.2 billion for the same quarter a year ago. On a "current cost of supplies" basis, full year 2014 earnings were $19.0 billion compared with $16.7 billion in 2013. In the firm's Q4 results, which come despite the cost of oil plummeting recently, it also noted savings of over £15 billion in potential spending over the next three years.

Shell announced results. Credit: PA

Our strategy is delivering, but we’re not complacent. Weaker oil prices underline that there’s a lot more to do. The three themes of financial performance, capital efficiency and project delivery will remain as Shell’s priorities in 2015.

– Shell CEO Ben van Beurden

In it's full year update, Shell said it had options to further reduce spending, but was "not over-reacting to current low oil prices".

Cold and windy with further wintry showers

We'll see further disruptive snowfall through the day today, especially to the north and west.

Britain is set to see more freezing temperatures today. Credit: Met Office

There will be some sleet and wintry flurries to the south too, with mainly rain showers in the southwest.

Temperatures will reach highs of 6 degrees Celsius (43F) but it will feel very cold in the wind

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Co-pilot was 'flying AirAsia plane' when it crashed

The co-pilot of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was flying the passenger jet when it crashed last month, killing all 162 people on board, officials say.

The AirAsia plane went missing on December 28 in stormy weather. Credit: Reuters

Mardjono Siswosuwarno, head investigator for Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, said the plane was in good condition and that all crew members were properly certified.

He said the aircraft's flight recorder gave a "pretty clear picture" of what happened in the final moments before it crashed on December 28.

Last week, officials said the plane had been "climbing too quickly" before the crash.

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