NHS operations: Waiting times to rise in ‘trade-off’, boss says


Media playback is unsupported on your device

‘We’re committed to quick operations on the NHS’ – NHS England boss Simon Stevens

Patients will face longer waits for operations such as knee and hip replacements in a “trade-off” for improved care in other areas, NHS England boss Simon Stevens says.

He said growing pressures meant he could no longer guarantee treatment in the 18-week target time.

GPs will also have to cut the number of patients they refer to hospital and use alternatives such as physio instead.

But Mr Stevens said in return there would be quicker cancer and A&E care.

Mr Stevens was unveiling a progress report on his five-year strategy for the health service, launched in 2014.

He said demand was rising at a quicker rate than expected and so compromises had to be made.

“There is a trade-off here – we do expect there will be some marginal lengthening of waiting lists, but this will still represent a strong, quick experience compared to 10 years ago, let alone 20.”


But Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, said the delays could have more serious consequences.

“Our concern is not only for hip and knee patients but those patients who perhaps are waiting for heart surgery. They may have a heart attack whilst they are waiting,” she said.

Are you waiting for an operation or cancer care? Have you waited in A&E? Get in touch by emailing .


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Meeting the NHS’s funding demands

Patients waiting for a hospital operation are meant to be seen within 18 weeks.

But there are currently more than 360,000 patients on the waiting list who have waited longer than that, which is one in 10 of the total – a proportion that has almost doubled in four years.

Mr Stevens said he expected that to get worse over the next couple of years but it needed to be seen in context of the situation a decade ago, when nearly half of patients were waiting longer than 18 weeks.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts, said: “I think it is completely unreasonable to expect NHS services to provide everything when the restrictions on funding and the demand is rising all the time.”

To reduce waiting lists, GPs are being asked to look at how many patients they are referring to hospital – and whether other options, such as physiotherapy, would be more appropriate than operations.

Mr Stevens said this process could lead to hundreds of thousands fewer patients being referred to hospital.

But Age UK’s Caroline Abrahams criticised the move, saying it would lead to “misery and pain” for older people and make it harder for them to maintain their independence.


The NHS spends about £16bn a year on drugs and medicines. But the bill has been rising quickly – up 7% in the past year.

This is the largest area of spending after staffing.

Firstly, a cap has been set on the bill for new drugs. The rollout of any new treatments that are going to cost the NHS more than £20m a year will now be delayed to give health bosses time to open talks with the industry on price.

Secondly, NHS England has said it will review “low value” medicines, such as suncream, gluten-free foods and some painkillers, which could save £400m a year.

Both of these steps had already been announced prior to this report.

The four-hour A&E target is to stay. Hospitals have been asked to start hitting the 95% threshold again by March 2018. Current performance stands at just over 85%.

To help, each hospital is being asked to introduce GP triaging, where doctors on the front door advise patients with minor illnesses and injuries of other places they can get help.

NHS England has promised that half the population will have access to evening and weekend GP opening by March 2018, with the rest of the country following a year later.


Another area that will be prioritised will be cancer care. A strategy was launched in 2015 setting out a vision for “world-class” services by 2020.

This latest report highlights an upgrade of radiotherapy equipment and the introduction of 10 new rapid diagnostic centres by next March.

The latter will house a range of specialists under one roof, meaning patients will no longer have to be referred back and forth between GP and specialist.

These steps, NHS England said, will help achieve the ambition of ensuring cancer diagnoses are made within four weeks by 2020, and lead to the 62-day target for cancer treatment to once again be hit – it has been missed for much of the past 18 months.

But Mr Stevens admitted the NHS needed more staff in this area.

One area Mr Stevens refused to be drawn on was money. When he launched his five-year strategy, he explicitly asked for £8bn of extra funding for the NHS.

Ministers gave the front line the extra money this Parliament, but in doing so cut other areas of the wider health budget, including training programmes for staff and funding for healthy lifestyle schemes, such as stop-smoking services.

Mr Stevens said this report was about what the NHS could “deliver” within the current level of funding, not about whether the budget was enough.

However, when asked, he refused to say he was happy with the amount of money the NHS was getting.

But others have not been so reticent. Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said: “Achieving one delivery promise only by missing another is a textbook example of rationing access to care. It should not be happening in today’s NHS.”

Surgeon: ‘How many more children like Kayden must die?’


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Kayden’s grandmother: “I wanted to strangle somebody”

Senior surgeons say they tried to warn managers of dangerous delays to emergency surgery ahead of a child’s death at a top children’s hospital.

Kayden Bancroft was 20 months old when he died at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH), following repeated delays to urgent surgery.

Whistleblowers allege the trust’s focus was on “ballooning” waiting lists rather than emergency care.

The hospital admitted that failings occasionally occurred.

Central Manchester University Hospitals Trust said: “Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital faces huge demands for its services and occasionally failings regrettably do occur.”

Kayden’s grandmother, Julie Rowlands, has .

She said: “His care was appalling. He was basically put in a room, and left.

“And all we got, nearly every day, was, ‘He’s not having the operation today, he’s not having the operation today.’ They were coming up with excuses, ‘There’s no bed, or a car crash victim’s come in.’

“That’s all we got, all the time we were there, was excuses.”

One surgeon, Basem Khalil, told the BBC: “We just worry how many more children must die before management is held to account and before the right changes are made.”

Kayden was brought into Stepping Hill Hospital on 11 April last year, a Monday, after falling and banging his mouth on his bottle.

Staff discovered that he had a hole in his diaphragm, causing his bowel to enter his chest.

Staff requested a transfer to RMCH for an operation to repair Kayden’s diaphragm, but no intensive care bed was available.

The following day, he was transferred, but to an ordinary ward.

Kayden’s surgery was repeatedly delayed over the following week, as he deteriorated.

On Thursday, 14 April, the BBC was told, a locum consultant requested that a planned elective surgery list be cancelled to allow him to carry out the operation, but management instructed an operational manager “not to get involved”.

The trust told the BBC that it had no record of this request.

Late on Friday night, Kayden went into cardiac arrest.

Nurses struggled to get help, because an emergency phone line was down, and it took nearly 30 minutes to resuscitate the child.

He suffered severe brain injury and died two days later.

The trust’s own investigation found “significant problems with the organisation and delivery of [Kayden’s] care, which was not timely and resulted in his death”.


Senior surgeons at the hospital told the BBC that they had repeatedly tried to warn trust management about problems, including a shortage of emergency operating theatres and intensive care beds at the hospital.

But the trust told the BBC: “We believe that there are sufficient theatres in our children’s hospital to cope with the demand for emergency cases; however, on occasions some children do have to wait for urgent surgery while emergency surgery takes place.”

Mr Khalil said: “On Thursday, one of the surgeons had offered to cancel one of his elective lists, so that he could do Kayden as an emergency, but did not receive the support that he needed.

“That should not have happened.

“There should have been support to say if we have children on the emergency list, they need to be done, and they should take priority over elective lists.”

Mr Khalil added that the size of the hospital’s waiting lists had become dangerous.

The BBC has seen internal figures to show that on 18 January this year, the number of children waiting for a procedure had reached 6,185, with 1,102 children having waited for over a year.

Mr Khalil said: “The waiting list in the children’s hospital has basically ballooned over the last few years.

“We now have hundreds of children who have waited over a year to have their surgery done.

“They were giving elective cases priority, but it almost became like a culture, that it is difficult to cancel elective cases to do emergency cases.”


A second surgeon, James Morecroft, who retired from RMCH this year, told the BBC: “There was a desire in the hospital to do the elective workload, perhaps at the expense of some of the emergency stuff.”

The trust said: “The trust would like to make it clear that at no time has it directed clinical staff to prioritise elective over non-elective care.

“As is the case at most similar hospitals, elective cases are regularly cancelled to accommodate emergency patients.”

However the trust’s own investigation into Kayden’s death recommended the hospital carry out an urgent review into “prioritising non-electives above elective cases”.

It added: “Following the investigation, a number of immediate and longer term actions were agreed.”

Lawyer Stephen Clarkson, from Slater and Gordon, who represented the family, said: “The real tragedy here is that Kayden’s death was entirely preventable.

“If he had been operated on earlier, then he would have survived.

“It is deeply concerning that this happened at one of the country’s leading hospitals for children, and that is why it is so important that the trust looks closely at what went wrong and what can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s child.”

Samsung Galaxy S8 – but is it art? The internet reacts

Samsung

Samsung would have you believe it has redefined smartphone design with its latest top-end handsets, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+.

It’s true they appear sleeker than before thanks to a decision to elongate their screens, make the home buttons “invisible” and put the fingerprint sensors on the back.

But for all the talk of “infinity displays” and “works of art”, they remain oblong mobiles that are hard to mistake for anything else.

More evolution than revolution, perhaps.

Potentially more groundbreaking is the inclusion of a new virtual assistant – Bixby – that can see as well as hear. Samsung now plans to roll it out to its TVs and other electronics.

And critically, the firm must now avoid another exploding battery debacle or some other misstep if it is to retain consumer confidence.

So, what did internet pundits and the public make of the launch?

WATCH: Samsung explains the benefits of its new design and Bixby

The screen monopolises around 80% of the phone’s front, by Samsung’s count… Like the Note before it, it’s pretty impressive how much phone the company has managed to cram into a relatively thin piece of real estate that’s 1.5mm slimmer than its predecessor.

These phones are incredibly well-designed. There are no seams, only the barest of camera bumps, and everything seems milled down to sub-millimetre tolerances. They feel inevitable in a way that almost becomes boring.

The device comes with a glaring omission: a physical home button… In forsaking the button, Samsung has beat its major competitor to the punch. Journalists and analysts have long speculated that Apple’s next iPhone will also remove the home button.

I’m not upset the fingerprint sensor is on the back. I’m annoyed at precisely where Samsung decided to put it: off-centre, next to the 12-megapixel camera… The biggest problem is, of course, how smudged up the rear camera lens will get from your finger if you miss and touch it instead.

When Bixby does eventually launch, you’ll get a similar experience to Google Assistant but Bixby aims to go that little bit further, helping you control your device and find other information. Based on what we saw, Bixby seems to be very capable and worth the wait.

In a controlled demo of an early version of Bixby that Samsung showed me last week, I didn’t see much promise… I’m also not convinced that talking to your phone is always better than using the controls on the screen, and I’m definitely not convinced this is the solution to Samsung’s confusing user-interface problems.

Samsung faces gigantic competition in getting other apps, services and devices to join in. Bixby competes with Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. There just won’t be enough space on the island for all of them – and Bixby is last to arrive.

Fail and Bixby will be a laughing stock. Succeed and Samsung can wiggle a little more from Google’s Android grasp.




I should have waited a year. Iris scanner and Bixby are the standout features.

Samsung and LG must [have] had the same meeting about their new phones. Look almost the same, and expensive.

Wow the new #Samsung #GalaxyS8 is £689!! That’s ridiculously expensive.

As a Galaxy Edge user, I love the Infinity Display on the #GalaxyS8. Bigger screen, longer battery life, and waterproof? Yes, please.

Nice Galaxy S8 but I’m more interested in a phone that doesn’t crack when I drop it, wasn’t looking for more sides to smash.

Bixby sounds like a butler from a stately manor. Fetch the car Bixby I am heading to the city.

First one that makes an app to remap the Bixby button on the Galaxy S8 to Google Assistant wins my $$$


Headphone jack! Headphone jack! Sorry Apple, trading in my 6S for this beauty.

Looks highly incremental spec wise. Would have preferred an edge-less model.

The battery capacity especially is a let down. I get that the physical dimensions aren’t very big, but a 6in+ screen should have a bigger battery than what this has.

The software didn’t look horrific, like in the past. It might not be so bad.

Will these burn your house down too?


Shots fired!!! Let’s see how Apple answers. I’m not a Samsung fan but good job! Let’s just hope they don’t have battery issues like the last one. Javier Lopez

Disappointed! Specs are nothing like I was hoping for. No 4K screen, no improvement on camera/video quality. Same amount of RAM. There’s very little difference between this and the S7 Edge. I’ll stick to my theory of always skip a generation of phones. Jim Jackson

Me: Bixby, trade in my S7 Edge to S8+. Bixby: Sell your kidneys to me… Henry Dazo Jr

Android co-founder’s new smartphone confirmed to run Android

The new smartphone from Andy Rubin, which will be the debut product of his new company Essential, will indeed run Android for its operating system. It looked that way from the tiny peek at the corner we got from Rubin’s tweet earlier this week, but now Google’s Eric Schmidt has confirmed it’ll be one of a few “phenomenal new choices for Android users coming very soon.”

Phenomenal new choices for Android users coming very soon. An example! https://t.co/3fwvYl6vlu

— Eric Schmidt (@ericschmidt) March 29, 2017

First of all:

But furthermore, this sounds like things between Essential and Google are very friendly, which could mean we’ll see a new type of close collaboration evocative of the Nexus era. Google has clearly staked out its own new kind of territory with phones it builds itself, opting for a strategy competitive with what Apple and Samsung have done with their top-tier premium devices.

Also, Schmidt’s teaser comes on Samsung Galaxy S8 day, which seems like no accidental omen. Android’s leading ranks have typically included Samsung and basically no one else, so it’ll be very interesting indeed if Essential is one among a few new options headed to the table.

Bitcoin entrepreneur Amir Taaki quizzed over fighting in Syria

Amir Taaki

A London-based software developer and “hacker” has said he is under police investigation after going to Syria to fight against the Islamic State group.

Amir Taaki, 29, a leading developer of online currency Bitcoin, was once named by Forbes as one of the most influential young people in technology.

Mr Taaki told the BBC he returned to the UK from Syria in 2016 and has spent the past 12 months on police bail.

The Foreign Office warns people not to travel to Syria for any reason.

“When I discovered Rojava [the term Kurds use to refer to northern or Syrian Kurdistan] I felt I had to go there,” he told the BBC.

“At first, I was completely scared – I thought I was going to die.

“I got sent to the frontline. I had no training, and I was given a Kalashnikov. I learnt how to use a gun on the way, another Western fighter showed me.”


Mr Taaki says he spent three and half months fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] military group and experienced several battles against IS.

He says he was not injured in the fighting, except in one incident, he tells me laughing: “I did fall into a trench.”

When asked “Did you kill anyone?” he explains that his experiences in battles with IS were at long range, so it is impossible to tell.

“I found myself on the front with a gun, I had to fight. But I wanted to go elsewhere, where my skills would be useful.”

Mr Taaki says he later met with the economics committee of Rojava and began helping the Kurds with local projects, such as a crowd-funding campaign which raised money and then built fertilizer factories to help farmers growing food.

The Syrian Kurds are not only fighting to defeat IS, but they have the aim of creating a new kind of socialist society.

This Kurdish vision is based on revolutionary ideas of living in a much less hierarchical way than the West – a system called “democratic confederalism”.

This is what Amir Taaki says truly inspired him to travel to the conflict.

“My main goal with going to Rojava was not because I opposed Isis, it’s because I support their [the Kurds’] revolution. I support their politics and their struggle.

“It is the only solution for lasting peace in the Middle East.”

Bitcoin, he believes, could help the Syrian Kurds.

“They’re trying to create a people’s economy. To establish a decentralised economy, you need decentralised money.

“Rojava’s under embargo, so there’s no way to move money in or out. So we have to actually create our own Bitcoin economies.

“Now we have a technological tool for people to freely organise outside state system. Because it is a currency not controlled by central banks.”


But software previously developed by Amir Taaki to allow untraceable, anonymous transactions, has been criticised by authorities because it may be used for money laundering or to fund organised terror groups.

When he returned to London in 2016, Mr Taaki says he was arrested at the airport and questioned under counter-terror legislation.

“I was not expecting it at all,” he says.

“They stopped the plane, and they arrested me. They confiscated computers, phones and everything”.

He says he has been told by police that he remains under investigation.

“I don’t support terrorism or terrorist acts. What’s the political motive in keeping an investigation open against me?”

There are no reliable figures for how many British people have gone to fight with the Kurds.

The YPG itself estimates that “hundreds” of volunteers from many countries have fought with it.

The YPG is not a banned group in the UK, but is considered a terror organisation by Turkey, which has a history of conflict with the Kurds.

Mr Taaki was once tipped to be a future billionaire.

He could work in Sillicon Valley and enjoy an incredible career. So why not, I ask?

“I could go and live on a beach in Brazil and party,” he tells me. “I don’t want that, though.”

When challenged on why he needed to pick up a gun at all, he replies: “I’m glad about it, to be honest, it was an important experience to have.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security.”

Watch a special piece with Amir Taaki on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC1 on Thursday at 9am. The Daily Politics programme will discuss the government’s stance on fighting in Syria on BBC2 on Friday at noon.

Samsung Galaxy S8 hides home button and gains Bixby AI

WATCH: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Samsung’s latest flagship phones have ditched the physical home button found in their predecessors and introduced a new virtual assistant.

The screens of the Galaxy S8 and bigger S8+ are also larger despite the devices being about the same size as last year’s S7 and S7 Edge.

This time, both models feature displays that curve round the phones’ sides.

The launch follows Samsung’s botched release of the Note 7, which was recalled twice after fires.

The South Korean firm blamed the problem on battery faults and said it had since put in additional safety measures, including X-ray scans of batteries.

The company has also become mired in a corruption scandal in its home country.


“The Galaxy S8 is arguably the most important launch of the last 10 years for Samsung and every aspect will be under the microscope following the Note 7 recall,” commented Ben Wood from the CCS tech consultancy.

“The S8 is a unquestionably a strong product but Samsung must now deliver a faultless launch to move on from its earlier difficulties. If this happens it will emerge in an even stronger position.”

The new devices will be released on 21 April.

The S8 is priced at £690 and the S8+ at £780 – a jump on last year’s entry prices of £569 for the S7 and £639 for the S7 Edge.

Samsung was the bestselling handset manufacturer for 2016 as a whole, according to market research firm IDC.

However, Apple overtook it in the final three months.

Manufacturer 2016 handset shipments Year-on-year change Market share
Samsung 311.4 million -3% 21%
Apple 215.4 million -7% 15%
Huawei 139.3 million 30% 9%
Oppo 99.8 million 134% 7%
Vivo 77.3 million 103% 5%
LG 55.3 million -7% 4%

Source: IDC

The displays of the S8 and S8+, measuring 5.8in (14.7cm) and 6.2in (15.7cm) respectively, mean a more stretched aspect ratio than before, pushing the screens closer to the top and bottom of the handsets.


As a consequence, Samsung’s logo no longer features on the front, and the physical home button is replaced with an on-screen icon – in a similar manner to rival Android phones from Huawei and LG.

A pressure sensor and vibration module have, however, been built into the space behind the new virtual button to provide feedback.

Samsung suggests the displays’ 18.5:9 ratio makes them better suited to running two apps side by side. For example, there is now space to watch a video, use a chat app and still have room for a full touch-keyboard.


The screens are the same resolution as before but are now brighter, supporting (HDR) playback of videos for extra clarity.

The S8’s body is a little narrower than that of the S7, while the S8+’s is a bit wider than the S7 Edge but lighter – Samsung says both new devices can still be used one-handed.

The phones also introduce Bixby – a virtual assistant based on technology acquired from some of the original developers’ of Apple’s Siri.


The helper is activated by a dedicated side-button and allows 10 built-in apps – including a photo gallery, messages and weather – to be controlled by voice.

It is “context-aware”, meaning users can ask follow-up questions and assume it is aware of what is currently displayed.

Samsung said it expected owners to mix together voice commands and physical controls – for example asking to see all the photos taken today, then tapping the ones they want, before verbally requesting they be messaged to a friend.

The software can also be used to recognise objects seen via the phone’s camera. This can be used to identify a landmark, for example, or tell the owner how much a product would cost to buy online.


Bixby works with Google Play Music, and Samsung intends to open it up to other third-party apps in the future but has not said when.

At launch, it is only designed to recognise US and Korean voices.

“If what Samsung demoed works well in practice, Bixby will be interesting because it offers features absent from Siri and Google Assistant,” commented Francisco Jeronimo from IDC.

“The race is on to have the best digital assistant, since that will drive hardware sales.

“But in the past, some of Samsung’s features have looked great in presentations, but when you use them on a daily basis they have not been as good.”

While Bixby offers new ways to control a phone, it lacks Google Assistant’s pre-emptive smarts – it does not interject in chats to suggest places to visit, for example.

However, the search giant’s rival artificial intelligence can still be summoned via the home button.


Other improvements over last year’s models include:

  • a more detailed eight megapixel front-camera with faster autofocus
  • the rear camera remains 12MP but promises to take photos with improved sharpness and contrast by snapping additional frames from which extra data is extracted
  • new processors – the central processing unit (CPU) is said to be 10% more powerful and the graphics processing unit (GPU) 21%. A shift to 10 nanometre-chip technology should also make them more energy efficient
  • an iris scanner, allowing “eye-prints” to be used as an ID alternative to fingerprints
  • a new Samsung Connect app that can be used to control smart home appliances

Samsung also has a range of accessories including a revamped virtual reality headset that is now accompanied by its own motion-sensing controller, and a second-generation 360-degree camera capable of more detailed images than before.


It also offers a new dock that connects the phones to a monitor, keyboard and wireless mouse, allowing them to act as a kind of Android-powered PC.

“Although Microsoft has done this in the past, the performance of the S8 makes it a very compelling experience,” commented Mr Wood.

“But while I’m impressed with the dock from a technology perspective, the practicality of it for consumers is questionable.”



I’m not sure I share Samsung’s bold declaration that the S8 is “a work of art” – but the slimmer handset definitely sits more easily in one hand than its predecessor.

And once you see the surface, which is nearly all-screen, you wonder why you ever needed a physical home button or any other furniture around it.

The tech giant has high hopes for its digital assistant Bixby. What I tried was a limited demo model, which only seemed to understand a few predetermined cues such as searching photos and telling you the weather.

The idea of using the camera as Bixby’s “eyes” is neat – but is it enough to draw people away from the more familiar Google Assistant, which will also be preinstalled, as it is on other Android devices?

I’d like to be able to tell you more about the battery life of what I imagine is a power-hungry little device – but Samsung was coy about that. Batteries are still a sensitive subject.



Samsung Electronics’s stock has shrugged off months of bad news, thanks in part to the popularity of last year’s Galaxy S7, strong sales of its OLED screens and other components to rival manufacturers, and the fact that investors hope the firm has learned from its mistakes.

Even so, the company will hope its latest launch will demonstrate it has turned a corner.

21 Feb 2016: Galaxy S7 phones unveiled – handsets bring back expandable storage and water resistance

24 May 2016: Sued by Huawei – Chinese rival claims patent infringement – Samsung later countersues

8 July 2016: S7 Active fails test – Consumer Reports finds phone fails to survive submerged as advertised

20 July 2016: S7 Active fix found – Samsung acknowledges and resolves production line fault

2 Aug 2016: Galaxy Note 7 revealed – Pen-controlled phone gains iris scanner and attracts positive reviews

24 Aug 2016: First Note 7 “explosion” report – News from South Korea of a burnt-out phone

2 Sept 2016: First Note 7 recall – 2.5 million handsets called back because of battery fault

1 Oct 2016: Note 7 returns to sale – Devices return to sale a few days later than planned

5 Oct 2016: Viv assistant acquired – Tech forms basis for the Bixby helper

11 Oct 2016: Second Note 7 recall – Action taken after incidents including a fire on a plane

4 Nov 2016: Washing machine callback – 2.8m machines recalled in US after reports of excessive vibrations

8 Nov 2016: HQ raided – Seoul office raided as part of corruption probe

4 Jan 2017: Brighter TVs – QLED-branded TVs, laptops and smart skin sensor unveiled at CES tech expo

17 Feb 2017: Chief arrested – Vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics, Lee Jae-yong, faces bribery allegations

27 Feb 2017: Two new tablets – New devices, but Galaxy S8 was not ready for launch at Barcelona’s MWC tech expo

29 March 2017: Galaxy S8 launch – New flagship phones unveiled in New York

Virgin Media overstated superfast broadband rollout

Man installing superfast Virgin Media broadband

Virgin Media has suspended four members of staff and begun an investigation after it admitted overstating the expansion of its superfast broadband network, dubbed Project Lightning.

According to parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media originally said it had connected 465,000 new premises in the UK and Ireland in 2016.

But following a review, that number has been revised down to 314,000.

Liberty said Virgin had exaggerated how fast it could complete the connections.

, the US company explained that – under Virgin’s own reporting standards – the figures included premises where installation work was “essentially complete” but not actually finished.

That included 142,000 sites that had been expected to be connected during the first three months of 2017.

However, Liberty said that in late February 2017, it had discovered that “the construction work necessary to connect a substantial number of [these premises] had not progressed as originally understood”.

This prompted it to carry out a review, in which it found “the completion status” of some premises had been “misrepresented”.

Liberty also said Virgin Media had “inadvertently” classified a further 9,000 unfinished premises as connected, when they had not been.

Dan Howdle, a consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, told the BBC: “Clearly the way in which the numbers had been reported failed to preclude the possibility of jumping the gun, though there is no evidence an intent to mislead lay behind it.”

He added: “Virgin Media appears to be dealing with the issue decisively, though mistakes resulting in stories of this nature are unlikely to leave a brand completely unscathed.”

Four Virgin Media employees have been suspended in connection with Liberty’s investigation and could face disciplinary action “including dismissal”.

The company said the setback would affect the total number of premises Virgin Media connected during the first half of 2017.

However, it said it had taken steps to speed up Project Lightning, including appointing a new managing director, Robert Evans, to lead the scheme.

It also said Virgin would no longer include uncompleted connections in its figures.

, Virgin’s Project Lightning is designed to connect about four million more UK homes and businesses to broadband speeds of 300Mbs.

By the end of December it had reached 567,000 premises in total – down from the 718,000 previously reported.

iPhone users fooled by fake ransomware

iPhones on display with man in background

Apple has issued an iPhone software update after reports of fake ransomware attacks where money was demanded in order to unlock the handset’s browser.

A pop-up screen accused the phone owner of accessing illegal pornography or pirating music and could not be removed.

However the ransomware was fake – and clearing the browser cache was actually enough to restore full access.

It ran on JavaScript, a code commonly employed by many websites.

The attackers demanded £100 in the form of an iTunes gift card with the code sent via text message to a designated mobile number, said security firm Lookout in a blog about the malware.

“…the attack doesn’t actually encrypt any data and hold it ransom,” .

“Its purpose is to scare the victim into paying to unlock the browser before he realizes he doesn’t have to pay the ransom to recover data or access the browser.”

The patch closed the loophole but Professor Alan Woodward, cybersecurity expert at Surrey University said some iPhone users have put off the update because it also includes other changes to the running of the device.

“Some people have held off thinking it sounds fairly major, but obviously if they do that they won’t get the protection,” he said.

“There is this feeling that iOS [Apple’s operating system] and Apple devices in general are less vulnerable.

“This shines a light on the fact that nothing is invulnerable. JavaSript is cross-platform and it’s a matter of how you manage it.”

Flybe fined for sending 3.3 million unwanted emails

A Flybe plane

The airline Flybe has been fined £70,000 for sending more than 3.3 million marketing emails to people who had opted out of receiving them.

The emails, sent in August 2016, advised people to amend out-of-date personal information and update their marketing preferences.

They also gave people the chance to enter a prize draw.

But the regulator said Flybe before sending the emails.

“Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing, without the right consent, is still marketing, and it is against the law,” said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“In Flybe’s case, the company deliberately contacted people who had already opted out of emails from them.”

Flybe told the BBC it wanted to “sincerely apologise” to affected customers.

“We can confirm that appropriate mechanisms have already been actioned to ensure that such a situation does not happen again,” it added.

The ICO £13,000 after a separate investigation found similar breaches.

The company sent 289,790 emails to clarify customers’ choices for receiving marketing, but did not secure their consent.

“The firm believed the emails were not classed as marketing but instead were customer service emails to help the company comply with data protection law,” the ICO said in a statement.

“Honda couldn’t provide evidence that the customers had ever given consent to receive this type of email, which is a breach of privacy and electronic communication regulations.”

Honda said it was disappointed with the decision and that it had acted with “the best data protection practices in mind”.

It added: “It is also important to highlight that we have already taken steps to address the concerns that the ICO has raised, and we are pleased that the ICO has recognised that any breach of the PECR by Honda was not deliberate nor intentional.”

China’s Tencent buys 5% stake in Tesla

A Tesla electric car

Chinese tech giant Tencent has spent $1.78bn (£1.4bn) on buying a 5% stake in electric carmaker Tesla.

Tencent, best known for its WeChat mobile app, has been investing in a number of sectors, including gaming, entertainment, cloud computing and online financing.

Tesla said the stake was passive, meaning Tencent would not get a say in how the US firm was run.

Shares in Tesla rose 2.3% in early trading following the announcement.

Tesla’s range of electric cars has included the Model S and the Roadster, which was billed as the world’s first electric sports car.

The company also specialises in battery storage, and, through its SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.

The firm has been raising capital ahead of the launch of its mass-market Model 3 sedan, and gained about $1.2bn through a bond and share sale earlier in March.

Tencent, one of Asia’s largest technology firms, has backed several electric vehicle companies in the past.

It was an early investor in NextEV, a Shanghai-based start-up which since has rebranded itself as Nio and has offices in San Jose, California, close to Tesla’s base.

Tencent is now the fifth-largest shareholder in Tesla behind chief executive Elon Musk and investment companies Fidelity, Baillie Gifford and T Rowe Price.

Mr Musk remains the largest shareholder, with a stake of about 21% as of the end of 2016.


Tencent is no stranger to putting money into US companies. Recent investments have included Snapchat-owner Snap and US Uber-rival Lyft – both of which have tech at their heart.

So its backing of Tesla can be seen as a vote of confidence in Elon Musk and his ambitious plans to produce affordable electric cars, and later fully self-driving vehicles.

More importantly, and perhaps why Tesla’s shares jumped on this news, Tencent could conceivably help Tesla make better inroads into the Chinese market.

Last year Tesla’s sales in the world’s most populous nation topped $1bn – but that is a fraction of what it was turning over in the US.

And if it really is going to make its Model 3 mass market, it needs consumers in places like China to be buying it.

Mr Musk has said he sees Tencent as an “adviser” as well as an investor, and the Chinese giant should have plenty of insight having already invested in businesses that are focusing on the future of transport.

As well as being an early backer of NextEV, it owns a slice of Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-sharing giant that effectively muscled Uber out of the market, as well as a stake in HERE, the German consortium owned by BMW, Audi and Daimler.

And recently Tencent Chairman Ma Huateng said he could see his firm getting involved in developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology for driverless cars in the future.