Five questions answered on the UK’s GDP growth

How is the economy fairing?

The UK’s GDP has seen its fastest growth for three years latest figures have revealed. We answer five questions on the statistics. 

How much has the UK’s economic output grown by? 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) UK economic output rose by 0.8 per cent between July and September.

This is the best quarterly performance since 2010.

What other figures were released?

The ONS said production grew by 0.5 per cent, however this is 12.8 per cent off its 2008 level. Within this manufacturing improved by 0.9 per cent.

The service sector grew by 0.7 per cent and is now 0.6 per cent above its pre-crisis peak. This represents three-quarters of economic output. 

What has the government had to say about these latest figures?

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne tweeted: "This shows that Britain's hard work is paying off & the country is on the path to prosperity."

While the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the figures "show that we are firmly on the road to economic recovery".

And the experts?

The Institute of Directors' chief economist Graeme Leach told the BBC: "The outlook looks better than at any time since the onset of the financial crisis. Indeed, our members have more confidence in the economy than at any time since 2008.

"However, strong headwinds remain and the annual growth rate year on year is nothing to get too excited about yet. Though inflationary pressures are likely to remain benign, debt and inflation are rising faster than earnings.

"This stage of our economic recovery is likely to be short and sweet, instead of long and strong."

The director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth, said: "This is the highest quarterly increase we've seen in three years, so the economy is clearly moving in the right direction.

"But we are still behind a number of advanced economies, such as the US and Germany, that have managed to recover the output lost during the economic downturn.

So, how does the economy fair overall?

The economy remains 2.5 per cent below its pre-recession peak at the start of 2008, and 1.5 per cent ahead of the same period last year. 

On the road to recovery? Photograph: Getty Images.

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear