Woman cyclist critically injured in HGV collision dies of her injuries


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A woman cyclist critically injured in a collision with a HGV on Friday has died of her injuries, police said today.

Her death brings to 10 the total of riders killed in London’s streets this year. It was near the same location at Ludgate Circus where a former Spanish soldier, Victor Manuel Ben Rodriguez, 32, was killed by HGV cycling to an interview in April this year.

City of London police today launched an appeal for witnesses as the 26-year-old’s death was confirmed. The crash happened on Friday morning. She has not yet been named.

Paramedics and a specialist trauma team from London’s air ambulance had fought to keep her alive after she went into cardiac arrest.

A statement from the City Police said: “Officers were called at approximately 11.30am on Friday, 17 October to reports of a collision between a lorry and a cyclist on Ludgate Hill close to the junction with Farringdon Street.

“This morning she died at Royal London Hospital with her family at her bedside. The family have asked for privacy at this time. Detectives from City of London Police are investigating.

“The driver of the lorry stopped at the scene. He has not been arrested at this time. Officers are appealing for witnesses to contact them on 0207 601 2222.”

The location has been earmarked to become part of a segregated cycle superhighway linking King’s Cross and Elephant and Castle.

Help offered to young victims of gang violence at London’s busiest major trauma unit


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Children as young as 11 are part of an “exponential rise” in victims of gang violence requiring life-saving treatment, London’s busiest major trauma centre has revealed.

About a quarter of the 2,500 cases handled by the specialist unit at St Mary’s hospital are patients aged 11 to 25. Last year it saw almost as many young victims of stabbings, shootings and beatings with a blunt weapon (170) as those injured in road collisions (200).

The figures were revealed as St Mary’s today set out plans to “embed” youth workers in its trauma unit for three years to help young people escape from gangs.

A pilot project at King’s College hospital found that victims of gang culture are most likely to be swayed during the “teachable moment” when their presence in hospital brings home the risks they face.

John Poyton, chief executive of Redthread youth charity, which runs the schemes, said: “The moment young people are injured, they suddenly realise they’re not immortal. They realise they’re vulnerable.

“It’s the one time when the kids are able to remove that mask of bravado, and they’re much more honest with themselves. A young person can be laid on a bed scared witless. It’s a window of opportunity.”

Last year the major trauma centre – one of four in London – was treating an average of 11 serious stabbings and one shooting each month.

St Mary’s has seen the total number of cases handed at its major trauma centre increase from 1,932 between April 2011/March 2012 to 2,242 the following year to 2,610 between April 2013/March 2014.

Medics reported an increase in “humiliation wounds”. Dr Asif Rahman, a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, said: “At the Notting Hill Carnival, we had a lot coming in with buttock wounds.”
“Hundreds” of patients were victims of gang-related sexual violence and exploitation. Dr Rahman said: “We are seeing more and more attendances to A&E of people who are victims of violent crime. It’s a big problem. We see lots of people in their pre-teens who are involved in violence. Some of our patients, at 11 years old, have been involved in some form of gang violence.”

The largest proportion of the hospital’s gang cases were from Brent – 28 per cent – followed by 19 per cent from Kensington and Chelsea and 15 per cent from Ealing.

The £648,000 project is funded by Imperial College Healthcare Charity and the Home Office. Crime prevention minister Norman Baker told me: “I would like to see this become standard practice across the NHS because I think it works.

“The idea you can get to somebody at a moment when they are prepared to listen to you, and stop them being involved in potentially damaging behaviour to themselves, has got to be good.

“The evidence is this sort of work is far more effective than the traditional method of the police trying to hand out fines or prosecute.”

Boris: memory of celebratory cigar forced me to reject ban on smoking in parks


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Boris Johnson has revealed why he refused to implement a smoking ban in London parks and squares – because it would stop people enjoying a celebratory cigar.

The Mayor told how he decided to reject the call from his own health commission to outlaw smoking in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and the Royal Parks to reduce the 8,400 premature deaths of Londoners from tobacco each year.

“In considering whether I could support a ban on smoking in large expanses of public space, I had to think back to my own way of life,” he told a City Hall meeting of the capital’s health chiefs.

“About two decades ago, my wife had a baby – my wife and I had a baby, for the avoidance of doubt. It came that point in the whole rhythm of things when everybody except me was asleep.

“I was in such a mood of absolute elation that I did what I don’t normally do. I wondered out into a park in Islington. It was in the middle of winter but I laid on the grass and I had a cigar.

“I don’t want to be in a city where somebody can stand over me and say, I’m so sorry, you have got to pay £115 for the privilege of doing something that is absolutely no harm to anybody else except me.”

Lord Darzi, the cancer surgeon who led the health commission, insisted that London would eventually follow New York and ban smoking in public parks.

He told me: “I have no doubt in my lifetime this will happen.”

The former Labour health minister headed a group of 28 of the most powerful figures in the London NHS in putting a series of proposals to the Mayor to improve public health. They focused on the preventable deaths linked to smoking and obesity.

Mr Johnson backed the call for a ban on fast-food takeaways being able to open near schools but instantly dismissed the call for the smoking ban and on proposals to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.

Lord Darzi denied he was angry with the Mayor. “I’m not, actually,” he said. “I think we started a fantastic debate and a fantastic dialogue. [The Mayor’s view] doesn’t surprise me. He has his own views. I respect them. I think this is an issue that Londoners will keep talking about.”

Asked whether he had wasted a year of his life, Lord Darzi said: “I don’t think so. If you are doing things for the right reasons… ultimately there is a political reaction to this, and there is the clinical view.”

London borough with 3rd highest birthrate facing closure of maternity unit


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Facing closure: Ealing hospital's maternity unit

Facing closure: Ealing hospital’s maternity unit

Plans to axe the only maternity unit in the London borough with the third highest birthrate were today described as “madness”.

GPs were this afternoon deciding whether to end births at Ealing hospital from next March in the latest stage of a move to provide maternity services at six “super hospitals” in north and west London.

Ealing clinical commissioning group, which controls the budget for maternity services, is considering whether to endorse the Shaping a Healthier Future masterplan for the NHS in north west London and close Ealing’s maternity department.

This would almost certainly be followed within three months with the removal of the hospital’s paediatric services and emergency and in-patient gynaecology. Ealing’s A&E is also due to be downgraded at a later date.

Ealing council leader Julian Bell said: “We oppose it vehemently. Closure will mean expectant mothers travelling further to give birth and this can only increase the risks and dangers to both mother and child.

“It is madness to leave Ealing without a maternity unit when we have one of the highest increases in birthrate in London. The Prime Minister denied that this closure would happen, highlighting the recent £2m investment in Ealing’s maternity unit. We will fight it every inch of the way.”

Dr Onkar Sahota, Labour chairman of the London Assembly health committee, said: “After the debacle of the A&E closures in North West London and the London Ambulance Service at breaking point this is not the time to be closing services. All this will do is to place further pressure on hospitals which are already ‘running hot’ and struggling to cope.”

A report being presented by Shaping a Healthier Future medical director Mike Anderson says the shortage of consultant cover at Ealing – specialists are on duty just 60 hours a week – means expectant mothers do not receive the same quality of care as at neighbouring hospitals.

This means there is an “increasing risk that services will become unsafe” and that allowing the unit to continue operating as normal is a “significant and increasing risk to the public”.

Of the 2,884 births at Ealing in 2012/13, 504 were by emergency Caesarean while 329 required the use of medical instruments such as forceps or ventouse suction cup.

In March, the Care Quality Commission watchdog found that maternity staff at Ealing were not always following guidelines on counting needles and swabs, placing women at risk after delivery. In February 2013, a “never event” – a medical blunder so serious it should never have happened – was recorded when a swab was left inside a mother.

In August, the CQC reported difficulties at Northwick Park’s maternity department – one of the hospitals that would see a rise in births if Ealing’s unit were axed.

Dr Mohini Parmar, Ealing GP and Ealing CCG chairwoman, said: “Ealing hospital maternity unit is currently a safe place for women to give birth. The standards for maternity units are changing and we know that in future Ealing may struggle to meet those standards. This could lead to an unplanned closure which is not fair on women or staff.

“These plans are about improving care for women across north west London. We can do this by increasing consultant cover and investing in six maternity units in NW London, rather than the current seven.”

‘Dangers of cannabis have increased but don’t pretend it’s as addictive as heroin’



A cannabis expert today warned of the growing dangers of the drug but attacked misleading reports that it was as addictive as heroin.

Professor Wayne Hall said he was increasingly concerned at the increased potency of the drug and its use by children in their teens rather than something first tried by university students.

He said cannabis remained less addictive than alcohol, nicoteen, heroin and cocaine and said it was “not helpful” to have it compared to Class-A drugs in media reports today.

“The intention was not to suggest that cannabis was as harmful or as risky as heroin,” he told the Standard. “It was to make the point there are risks with the use of the drug.

“It’s a drug of dependence like alcohol, nicotine and heroin but not as high a risk.”

His paper, which analysed worldwide research into drug addictions since 1993, said that driving while under the influence of cannabis doubled the risk of a car crash while its use during pregnancy reduced the birth weight of the baby.

Prof Hall, of King’s College London, said the risk of regular users developing schizophrenia in adulthod had increased over the last 20 years from one per cent to two to three per cent.

He said: “As a broad generalisation, the earlier you introduce the use of any drug, the greater the risk. There is probably a bigger risk It’s a combination of a more potent product and earlier initiation that has produced that increase.”

He quotes US research from the early 1990s that the life-time risk of developing dependence on substances ranges from nine per cent for cannabis to 15 per cent for alcohol, 23 per cent for heroin and 32 per cent for nicotine.

He writes that the “evidence for a cannabis withdrawal syndrome has strengthened since 1993” and “it is now difficult that cannabis dependence does not require medical attention”.

He added: “The adverse health and social consequences of cannabis use reported by cannabis users who seek treatment for dependence appear to be less severe than those reported by alcohol and opioid-dependent people.”

St Mary’s hospital has UK’s best major trauma unit, says NHS review


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A London hospital’s major trauma centre has been rated as the best in the country.

The unit at St Mary’s hospital, in Paddington, was judged by NHS England to be the best of 25 centres treating critical injuries typically caused by road collisions, falls, freak accidents and shootings and stabbings.

Inspectors said the unit provided a “high quality” service to patients and was at the centre of an “outstanding” trauma network of hospitals across north-west London.

The unit, which has a trauma theatre and staff on standby 24/7, was praised for its innovation and high patient satisfaction rates. The quality of its care meant St Mary’s had an extra two survivors for every 100 patients treated compared to the UK average.

See here for a story from last year about St Mary’s work to treat victims of gun and knife crime.

Plans are now at an early stage to provide a helicopter landing pad at St Mary’s to speed the transfer of life-threatening cases. This would sit on the roof of a new building that it is hoped will be completed by 2020.

Dr Tracey Batten, chief executive of Imperial College NHS trust, said: “We are delighted that we have been ranked as the number one trauma unit in the country.

“It’s a terrific recognition of the hard work of the staff. But more importantly for patients, it means we have two or three more patients surviving per hundred that we see. We are obviously getting great clinical outcomes.”

The Royal London, in Whitechapel, was praised for a “high standard of care”, “outstanding leadership” of the trauma hospital network in north-east London and work to reduce the threat of knife crime and injury to cyclists.

London’s other two major trauma units, at King’s College hospital, in Denmark Hill, and St George’s hospital, in Tooting, also received positive ratings.

King’s was commended for its “excellent” work on gangs and violence but marked down for the need to take spinal cord injury patients two hours’ drive away to Stoke Mandeville hospital in Aylesbury.

See below for a link to a PDF giving details of all the trauma unit inspections: National Peer Review Trauma National Report July 2014

4,500 homes to be asked if Walthamstow’s Mini Holland cycle scheme should be permanent


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A total of 4,500 households in Walthamstow are to be asked their views on the “Mini Holland” cycling initiative once the trial ends after three weeks.

West Avenue closed to through-traffic

West Avenue closed to through-traffic

A council official told me today that a wide survey of all affected homes – including many outside of the scheme’s boundary – would be asked a series of questions (see form below). This will influence the council’s decision on whether to make the scheme, or an amended version of it, permanent.

Questions include whether respondents supported the trial from the outset, whether they support them now and whether the closures were in the right place. Answers range from strongly agree to strongly disagree.


Orford Road closed to traffic

Orford Road closed to traffic

The Mini Holland trial – rather misleadingly dubbed the Pembroke Road scheme by the council, when Walthamstow village would have been a more accurate geographical description – appears to have split opinion in and around the village, if the various Walthamstow Facebook groups (Walthamstow Parents/Walthamstow Life etc) are anything to go by.

What’s immediately obvious is the huge impact on surrounding roads, with Lea Bridge Road and Hoe Street much more congested (they were already bad for most of the day).

But the Mini Holland trial, which concludes on October 13, has undoubtedly prevented the mass rat-running that was a particular problem in Orford Road. Whether it has merely diverted it is another matter.

Council officials were today asking passers-by to complete the questionnaire, prior to the door-knocking commencing.

Separately, activists for and against the scheme have set up on-line petitions.

To support Mini Holland, click here: https://www.change.org/p/waltham-forest-council-we-support-mini-holland-in-walthamstow-2

To vote against it, click here: http://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-waltham-forest-council-stop-mini-holland-in-walthamstow

Cycle rack in Orford Road

Cycle rack in Orford Road


Charing Cross sell-off vital to avoid ‘disastrous’ PFI deal, insists hospital chairman


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Sell-off plans: Charing Cross hospital

Sell-off plans: Charing Cross hospital

The sale of a large part of the Charing Cross hospital site is the only way to avoid using a “disastrous” PFI deal to fund rebuilding plans, campaigners have been told.

In angry scenes, Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of Imperial College NHS trust, said there was a pressing need to upgrade its sister hospital, St Mary’s, and convert Charing Cross into an outpatient day surgery hospital.

He said: “If we are going to spend £650 million to bring our hospitals up to modern standards, that £650 million has got to come from somewhere, and the Government are not handing out money, as we know.

“PFIs for many hospitals are disastrous. There’s a £7 billion PFI and Barts and they pay £100 million in interest [a year] before they even see a patient. We don’t want to go down that route.”

Under Imperial’s plans, land sales would generate £242 million, leaving it to borrow a further £408 million from the Department of Health’s independent trust finance facility.

Charing Cross would be reduced in size by about four-fifths and would lose 336 inpatient beds and have its accident and emergency department downgraded to an “emergency centre” of as yet unknown capacity to treat the most critically ill patients.

Concerns over the A&E at Charing Cross intensified when the emergency unit at Hammersmith and A&E at Central Middlesex hospitals closed on September 10.

Sir Richard, fighting back against hostility from Save Our Hospitals campaigners at Imperial’s AGM on September 24, told them: “We don’t have any choice. We have a 19th century, 18th century estate on one of our sites [St Mary’s], trying to deliver healthcare to the best possible quality for your benefit.

“If we don’t do that we will be in serious, serious trouble. There will be all sorts of problems. We have to rebuild our estate for your benefit, not for mine.”

The changes at St Mary’s, in Paddington, and at Charing Cross, in Hammersmith, are part of a five-year plan to treat more people in the community.

Andy Slaughter challenges Tracey Batten at Imperial's AGM

Andy Slaughter challenges Tracey Batten at Imperial’s AGM

Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith, said challenged Dr Tracey Batten, Imperial’s chief executive, to guarantee that “there will be no further closures or run-down of services, particularly at Charing Cross, unless and until you can demonstrate there is not a demand for these services”. He added: “Not to do that will be incredibly irresponsible.”

Dr Batten said the trust was “guided by our clinicians” in all the proposed changes. She said: “We can only change the number of beds within our facilities when these community services are established. That is the way we need to work.”

London Ambulance Service ranked worst NHS organisation in the capital – by its own staff


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The London Ambulance Service faced a new crisis today when the first TripAdvisor-style NHS staff survey found a third of its employees would not recommend its care to their friends and family.

The service, which has been hit by dire staff shortages and a massive increase in 999 calls, was the worst performer of all NHS trusts in the capital in terms of staff satisfaction.

A total of 33 per cent said they would not recommend its care to their friends and family. Only 46 per cent said they would – also the lowest positive rating out of 39 hospital, mental health and community NHS organisations in London.

Of the 384 responses, only 15 per cent of ambulance staff would recommend it as a place to work, while 71 per cent said they would not recommend it to family and friends – again the worst scores of any London NHS organisation.

Last week London Ambulance Service announced that thousands of Londoners who dialled 999 would no longer receive an emergency ambulance after soaring demand and staff shortages forced health chiefs to prioritise the sickest patients.

Its control centre has been deluged with almost 15,000 extra calls a month, up 11 per cent year-on-year – while having 450 fewer front-line staff due to a recruitment and retention crisis.

Efforts are being made to recruit about 250 paramedics from Australia and New Zealand. The service should have 3,000 front-line staff but is short of 320 paramedics and 130 emergency medical technicians.

A London Ambulance spokeswoman said: “We know our ambulance crews and control room staff provide outstanding patient care daily and the hundreds of letters of thanks and praise we get from patients confirms this.

“These are the views of eight per cent of our workforce, however, we are working hard to improve our response time to Londoners but with increasing demand some patients with minor injuries may wait longer for an ambulance response.”

Today’s results were based on an expansion of the friends and family test to include staff responses. Previously it was only patients who were able to vote.

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, in Stanmore, was voted the best place to receive care, backed by 98 per cent of staff.

The best places to work were the Royal Brompton and Harefield and Royal Free trusts, each scoring 87 per cent support from their employees.

Health chief under fire over A&E changes calls for NHS to focus on ‘wellness’ not ‘illness’

A hospital boss today called for the public to become less reliant on A&E units as she prepared to face hundreds of campaigners fighting to save Charing Cross hospital.

Dr Tracey Batten, the new chief executive of Imperial College NHS trust, said the NHS had to switch priority from “illness to wellness” in a major reorganisation of services across north-west London.

Imperial has been hit by a backlash from Save Our Hospital campaigners, Labour MPs and Hammersmith and Fulham council over plans to axe 336 inpatient beds at Charing Cross and turn it into a much smaller daycare hospital.

Imperial College NHS chief executive Dr Tracey Batten

Imperial College NHS chief executive Dr Tracey Batten

Dr Batten used an interview with the Standard ahead of the trust’s annual meeting tonight to call for the public to be better educated in the benefits of being treated at home or in the community rather than in hospital.

She says preventative care could minimise the risk of heart attack, while alternative “pathways of care” could be developed for stroke patients and those undergoing hip replacements.

She said: “One thing I would say about this reorganisation is that if you look at the NHS, it has traditionally been quite an illness-led healthcare system.

“When people get sick, they come into hospital and we treat them incredibly well. That has skewed healthcare dollars towards the hospital end of the provision.

“There is no doubt going forward we do need to shift from an illness to a wellness model. We do need to shift the balance between you getting ill and coming into my hospital and us keeping you well at home.”

Despite the closure two weeks ago [September 10] of the emergency unit at Hammersmith hospital, also run by Imperial, and its replacement with an urgent care centre, Dr Batten insisted changes at Charing Cross would not happen “for a couple of years”.

Its A&E will become an “emergency centre” – but she admitted she was not yet sure what this would contain due to the lack of “crystal clear” guidance from NHS England.

“It doesn’t surprise me that people are very attached to the physical hospital and the A&E department because of what it symbolises,” she said. “But should we be so reliant on them in the way we have been? No we shouldn’t.

“If you take my mum in her 80s, is she better turning up to the A&E department? It’s the last thing she wants to be doing. She wants to get the care she needs in her local community or at home. I think that is the same for most of us.

“If people knew they had different options [to A&E], they would probably go for these different options.”

She added: “At the AGM, it’s about trying to give them that reassurance that we’re not going to do this in a vacuum. You can never engage too much and you can never communicate too much. We haven’t been perfect. I would be the first to admit that.”

Imperial has previously admitted the closure of Hammersmith’s A&E unit could cause knock-on problems at St Mary’s hospital.

But the Australian, who arrived at Imperial in April, said she had no wish to abandon the principles of the controversial Shaping a Healthier Future strategy, which reduces from nine to five the number of A&Es in north-west London.

“You can go round the mulberry bush many times. I’m not sure that is going to get us much further than where we are.”

Kate and William leave the Lindo wing with  Prince George

Kate and William leave the Lindo wing with Prince George

* The Duchess of Cambridge would be welcomed with “open arms” by St Mary’s hospital if she chose it for the birth of her second child.

Kate gave birth to Prince George last year at the private Lindo wing, and she is expected to return there next year. The Lindo was also where Princess Diana gave birth to William and Harry.

Dr Batten said: “We would obviously be delighted if she decides to have her second child here. We would embrace her with open arms. We obviously don’t as yet know. I gather it went extremely well last time, and if we get the opportunity we would love to do another one.”


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