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Police investigate series of suspicious fires

Back of police officer

Police are investigating a series of suspicious fires in the Shepton Mallet area.

They happened between 31 July and 6 August in the Millennium Way and Nightingale Grove areas. The fires were reported on:

  • 31 July - early evening started on very dry brush land on Millennium Way, close to a shed in nearby Somerset Close. A fence and two sheds were affected.
  • 1 August – during the afternoon a fire was started with coal and kindling under a hedge running the side of a house just off Millennium Way in Nightingale Grove. The victim and a neighbour extinguished the fire. Shortly afterwards a further small fire was located close to a property off Millennium Way but extinguished by residents.
  • 2 August - two further fires were discovered opposite a house in Millennium Way. There were three small fires discovered later in the area, which were also put out by the fire service.
  • 6 August – a small fire was located on a path closer near to Collett Park Pond which was extinguished by town council staff.

A-Levels: Number of students with top grades fall

Students celebrating
PA Media

The proportion of students achieving the top grades at A-level has fallen to its lowest level for more than a decade, this year's results show.

This year some 25.5% got an A grade or higher - the lowest level since 2007 when it was 25.3%.

Girls narrowly reclaimed the lead from boys, with 25.5% achieving A* and A grades compared with 25.4% of boys.

The overall pass rate remains the same as last year at 97.6% for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The figures, released by the Joint Council for Qualifications, also show that - for the first time - the number of girls taking the three sciences has overtaken boys at 50.3% compared with 49.6%. There has been a big push to increase the take-up of sciences among girls.

Although far more boys - 30,159 - still took physics A-level, compared with 8,799 girls.

Six weeks after the last A-level exams were taken, more than 300,000 18-year-olds have ended the anxious wait to learn their A-level results.

For more on this year's A-Level results, click here.

Public meeting over hospice closure

Entrance to the hospice

Hundreds of people attended a meeting about the potential closure of St Margaret's Hospice in Yeovil last night.

They're concerned that beds will still close there, despite a consultation.

The Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh wants it to stay open, and says he's spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the issue.

Traffic light battery theft delay roadworks

Traffic lights

Roadworks on the outskirts of Bridgwater have been delayed because thieves have stolen the batteries powering the temporary traffic lights, twice.

Somerset County Council says its contractor has reported the thefts, which happened on Taunton Road last Friday and on Monday, to the police.

Macmillan charity founder honoured

Macmillan Cancer Support

A blue plaque has been unveiled to honour the founder of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Douglas Macmillan (1884-1969) was born in Castle Cary, Somerset, and started the charity 108 years ago with a donation of just £10.

Local historian David Gee worked tirelessly to locate the house where he lived and was present as the plaque was unveiled during a ceremony on Monday.

"This is the completion of the search to find recognition in the town where he was born, in a form people will recognise," he said.

He was joined by relatives of Mr Macmillan, including John Brewster, his great nephew and godson.

"It's impressive that people want to discover more about Douglas and his roots. People seem appreciative as to what he did and we now have a little reminder firmly attached to the house," said Mr Brewster.

Travelling tonight? Here are planned road closures for the region

Public meeting over hospice closure

St Margaret's Hospice

Hundreds of people are expected at a public meeting tonight about proposals to close inpatient-beds at a hospice in Yeovil.

A meeting was held last week but tonight is the first chance for the public to put their concerns to bosses at St Margaret's Hospice.

They say the plans are because of staffing and funding challenges.

Nearly 20,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the hospice to reconsider.

The meeting takes place at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil at 6.30pm.

Bypass planned for Bridgwater in new roads strategy

Proposal map
Sedgemoor District Council

New plans which lay out the future transport needs of Bridgwater over the next 30 years have been approved by Sedgemoor District Council.

A proposed northern bypass will take traffic away from the town centre and reduce congestion coming in from the north.

Other plans include an upgrade to the ‘magic roundabout’ in Cheddar, a link road for Burnham-on-Sea’s eastern edge, and rail improvements to make it easier to get from Bridgwater to London within two hours.

A spokesperson said there are currently no plans nor funding in place to support any of these schemes, but the strategy is intended to attract funding.

The strategy is a long-term document and these options within it are only part of a long-list of possible proposals from 2032 onwards. Much will also depend upon future growth options for the district and the proportion of new homes and employment that might be located across Sedgemoor post-2032.

SpokespersonSedgemoor District Council

Dead cow 'left to wash out to sea'

A dead cow has been spotted in the River Parrett which runs through the town of Bridgwater.

Leigh Redman, a town councillor, tweeted about the dead animal on Wednesday, but says he was told by various agencies it wasn't their responsibility to clear.

View more on twitter

Later on, Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue tweeted him to say they are waiting for the animal to "wash out to sea."

View more on twitter

Number of tele-consultations 'will only increase'

Matthew Hill

BBC West health correspondent

David de Berker
Consultant dermatologist David de Berker assesses the images and decides which ones need a follow up

The teledermatology scheme has come into its own in recent years, by helping to address the national shortage of dermatologists.

For instance Taunton and Weston hospitals could not keep the specialist service going in-house and University Hospitals Bristol was only able to step in because this technology allowed consultants easy access to very sophisticated macro-photographic images of skin blemishes.

It carries out around 4,000 remote consultations a year through the teledermatology system which now makes up more than 10% of outpatient attendances a year.

It seems that trend will only increase over future years.

Unemployment lowest in South West

Unemployment figures

Unemployment in the South West was 2.7% in the three months ending June 2019, making it the lowest in the UK.

The UK’s unemployment rate edged up slightly to 3.9%, the new figures showed.

Employment was estimated at 76.1%, the joint highest since comparative records began in 1971.

Wage growth also picked up to 3.9%, the highest rate for 11 years, however figures released last week showed the economy shrank 0.2% in the second quarter, the first fall since 2012.

The highest unemployment rate in the UK was the North East (5.3%).

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49328855

England spinner Jack Leach on playing for his local club after Ireland Test

Jack Leach
Getty Images

Just over a week after making 92 for England at Lord's, Jack Leach found himself with a free Saturday.

He filled it by playing for Taunton Deane Cricket Club in the West of England League.

On the same day, the England team from which the Somerset spinner was omitted were just starting to lose their grip on the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Tap here to read the full story.

Hundred-mile round trip avoided as GP offers teledermatology consultation

Vanessa Wilson Fitzgerald.

One of the patients who has benefited from the service is Vanessa Wilson Fitzgerald.

She visited her GP in Eddington after becoming concerned over a spot on her leg which will not go away.

Previously she would have had to make a 100-mile round trip to either Bristol or Exeter to see a specialist.

Ms Fitzgerald said if the service was not available, she "probably wouldn't go" as finding parking and finding the place "would give me a nightmare".

Her GP Dr Tony Wright uses a specialist camera to take a detailed picture of the area.and the images are passed on to consultant dermatologist David de Berker in Bristol for a same day examination.

Remote cancer triage helps speed up skin treatment

GP surgery

A service is helping thousands of patients from Somerset avoid a lengthy journey to see a hospital specialist.

It comes after a shortage of dermatologists in hospitals in Weston-super-Mare and Taunton meant they were unable to keep the specialist service running in-house.

The teledermatology process involves taking photographs of potential skin cancers at a GP practice and emailing them to specialists in Bristol.

Consultant dermatologist David de Berker from University Hospitals Trust then looks at the pictures to determine whether the spot or blemish can be treated locally or whether it needs urgent treatment.

He said 25-30% of patients seen this way would need a hospital consultation and it would help prioritise those "that needed to be seen tomorrow".

"Those that need to be seen very quickly are seen but equally the other three-quarters, they don't need to come to hospital and that's another major saving of this project.

The system also allows a photographic record to be kept which means any changes can be monitored over time.

Weymouth medical bike 'not being withdrawn'

A medical bike with life-saving equipment will not be withdrawn from service in Weymouth but its future is under review.

There had been some speculation on social media that the rapid response bike would be "pulled".

But South Western Ambulance Service Trust said it was still being used on an "ad-hoc" basis because only one paramedic is trained to use it.

A petition to save the facility had attracted more than 2,000 signatures.

Car crashed into tree on A378

The A378

Emergency services were called to a serious incident on the A378 at Hurds Hill.

A car crashed into a tree at around 2.15am today and the driver reported to have leg and back injuries.

The driver climbed out of the vehicle and cut himself on glass from the windscreen.

He was taken to hospital where injuries were not considered to be serious.

The road was re-opened shortly after 7am.

Police will be given £1.1m to tackle violent crime

Police officers
Getty Images

Avon and Somerset Police will receive £1.1m to set up teams to tackle violent crime.

The money will fund new violence reduction units that will bring together different organisations - including the police, local government, health and community leaders - to tackle violent crime by understanding its root causes.

The Government announced the cash injection today as part of a wider £35m investment in the 18 areas worst affected by serious violence.

The funds will be allocated from a pot of £100m set aside in March to tackle serious violence, the Home Office said.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "To beat knife crime we must do two things: first we need assertive, high profile police enforcement and second, we need a coordinated approach to the long term solutions to violence in society, especially among the young."

"These new units should help us get results on both."

Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands and West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Northumbria, Thames Valley, Lancashire, Essex, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Sussex, Hampshire and South Wales and Kent will also receive money from the fund.

Douglas Macmillan blue plaque to be unveiled

A blue plaque will be unveiled in Someret today, to mark the birthplace of a cancer charity founder.

Douglas Macmillan was born in Castle Cary in 1884.

He established the present-day Macmillan Cancer Support.

This plaque is ready to be revealed on the house where he came into the world.

Hospice beds 'will close unless funding is changed'

BBC Spotlight

More hospice beds will close in the South West unless the way they are funded changes, according to both the Royal College of Nursing and hospices themselves.

The organisations are calling for an urgent review following news two weeks ago that a 12-bed unit at St Margaret's hospice in Yeovil was to close due to pressure on staffing and finances.

Hospice UK said two in three hospices across England were operating at a deficit and many planned to cut services.

It said government funding had only increased by 3% over the last 10 years, and hospices were having to rely more and more on their charity shops and money left in wills.

Hospice bed

Steven Roberts, from North Devon Hospice, added that such funding problems were leaving the facilities in a "desperate" situation.

I don't think it's right in 2019, when people are at the end of their life, that whether they die pain-free and with dignity is reliant on people buying second-hand clothes."

Steven RobertsNorth Devon Hospice

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was evaluating hospice services to help health commissioners to decide what was best to fund.

Network Rail site 'power surge' for expected delays

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: "There was a power surge on the national grid this evening which means we lost power to all our signalling over a wide area, including the Newport, Gloucester, Ashford, Bristol, Eastbourne, Hastings, Three Bridges and Exeter areas.

"All trains were stopped while our back-up signalling system started up.

"While most of our signalling system has come back online and trains are running, there will be delays to journeys in these areas.

"Please check before you travel and thank you for your patience."

BreakingSouth West hit by power 'incident'

Major power failures have been reported across large areas of the UK, affecting trains, airports and traffic lights.

"We believe this is due to a failure on National Grid's network, which is affecting our customers," UK Power Networks said.

The drop in power is affecting traffic lights in the capital, while many train lines are facing delays and cancellations.

More than 31,700 properties are currently without power in the Western Power Distribution (WPD) network area, affecting large areas of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

Power lines

Huge Power Cut hits around 50% England

Updates from Western Power Distribution have confirmed that the power cuts are widespread across England and Wales.

They have said that they are experiencing a "major incident on the national grid".

Below is a map of the areas affected currently.

Western Power map
Western Power

High hopes for trainee sniffer dog

PA Media

A stray puppy handed into a rescue centre two months ago is to become a police sniffer dog.

Raven was taken to Bristol Animal Rescue Centre after being found by a member of the public in June.

The animal had not been microchipped and no one claimed her.

During her assessment, staff noticed that she was obsessed with tennis balls and playing fetch, so contacted Avon and Somerset Police to see if she was a good candidate to become a sniffer dog.

Raven has been paired with PC Lee Webb and she will now begin learning to detect drugs, firearms and cash.

"She has settled at home and enjoys the company of the other dogs," he said.

"Once she has settled fully, I will begin to take her to lots of different places and see how she reacts, especially when it comes to retrieving and searching for a tennis ball."

Points West this morning...

Points West

Good morning to you all.

We have technical problems with the studio here in Bristol this morning, which is why you are not seeing your usual Points West bulletins.

Our colleagues in Plymouth are kindly running a joint bulletin for us until we have resolved the issue here.

Many thanks for your patience. We'll be back to normal as soon as possible!