Underground bike hangars operated by robots proposed for London cyclists


A cycle hangar that uses robots to store bikes safely underground and return them to the surface in seconds could be built in London.

The Eco Cycle system has been used in Japan for more than a decade. Now its backers believe it could offer a solution to the capital’s dire shortage of secure bike parking.

Bikes are loaded onto an automated rack at pavement level before a Matrix-style robotic lift slides them into a buried cylindrical vault. Bikes, which are identified by a barcode on the frame, are retrieved when their owner swipes a smartcard with the same barcode on a pavement machine.

The system, which can also store bikes in a cylindrical tower above ground, was being demonstrated tonight beside Southwark Tube station as Eco Cycle sought to attract interest from employers and local authorities.

Nick Knight, managing director of Eco Cycle, said the fear of having a bike stolen was second only to concerns about safety in discouraging Londoners to cycle.

More than 17,800 bikes were reported stolen in London last year but campaigners believe many thefts go unreported and the true figure could be around 80,000. The popularity of cycle-to-work schemes, which offer tax breaks to commuter cyclists, had resulted in many high-value bikes now being ridden in the capital, he added.

Mr Knight said: “We feel there are huge benefits because fully-secure cycle parking is not being provided by local authorities or TfL. It’s the missing link to encouraging more cycling.

“We think you can get more people to cycle if you don’t need to have a lock on your bike and you know it’s going to be there when you return.”

Eco Cycle could become a less street-cluttering alternative to on-street racks for Boris bikes, and also hopes to set up a subscription system open to individual cyclists rather than just employees accessing a hangar via a company scheme.

The vault is sunk into the ground to a depth of almost 12 metres and can store 204 bikes. “If you are digging down, as long as you have not got a Tube tunnel in the way or a gas or water main, you can deal with most other things,” Mr Knight said.

He said the scheme had been suggested by landowner Grosvenor when it consulted as part of possible changes to Berkeley Square, but permission had been refused to fit a bike hangar inside a Crossrail ventilation shaft in Finsbury Circus. Secure cycle parking is often made a condition of planning consent but is restricted to employees with access to the building. Mr Knight wants to see them incorporated as part of the new Crossrail stations.

Bike sheds, costing £10 a year for a key fob to gain access, were recently installed at Walthamstow Central and Leytonstone stations as part of the Waltham Forest mini Holland scheme. The Midtown Cycle Vault in Bloomsbury Square has space for 100 bikes, alongside showers and changing rooms, and costs £200 a year.

Top medics from ’24 Hours in A&E’ TV series back junior doctors


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Consultants at the London hospital featured in the TV series 24 Hours in A&E today vowed to cover for colleagues who take part in the first “all out” junior doctors’ strike.

The senior medics at St George’s hospital in Tooting insisted that patients would not be put at risk, as they followed colleagues at Barts Health in going public with their unanimous support of their juniors.


St George's consultants

In a letter of support emailed to their “highly valued” colleagues, the consultants at one of Britain’s busiest A&Es said they were “wholeheartedly against” the changes to the contracts proposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt has vowed to impose new contracts from next August that will reduce the hours attracting overtime payments as he seeks to deliver more NHS services seven days a week.

Junior doctors are due to walk out on December 1 – though not in emergency departments – and then between 8am and 5pm on December 8 and 16 after 98 per cent voted in favour of strike action.

Click here for a PDF of the Evening Standard story St George’s junior docs

Consultant Dr Neel Bhanderi, who helped draw up the letter, told the Standard: “We wanted to show our support for the juniors working in the emergency department. We know that, working in emergency medicine, there are a lot of anti-social hours, and it’s already a seven-day service that we run. We are lucky at George’s to have consultant cover 24 hours a day.

“We all agreed to come in and staff the department to make sure it’s safe, and patients will get consultant care on these two days. We wanted to reassure our juniors that patients are still going to be in safe hands, and for them not to worry. At the end of the day, for us and for any doctor, the patients are paramount.”

He said the changes proposed by Mr Hunt would remove safeguards on overtime and could leave junior doctors working longer in unsafe conditions. Junior doctors working part-time while carrying out academic research or bringing up families would lose out financially, he said.

There are between 50 and 60 junior doctors working in St George’s A&E. “We know it [the strike threat] is a last resort,” Dr Bhanderi said. “What we would want is for both sides to get back to the negotiating table.”

The letter states: “It is regrettable that the Government seems determined to impose these changes upon you and that the BMA has been forced to withdraw from negotiations. We fully support you and your choice to undertake industrial action.

“We want you to have a safe and fair contract. It will protect you. But most of all it will protect your patients. At the end of the day, you are the future of the NHS and we are proud to call you our colleagues.”

  • An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.

Cars, lorries and taxis could be banned from Bank junction within a year


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Lorries, cars and taxis are to be banned from one of London’s most notorious junctions in a radical bid to improve safety.

The City of London Corporation today outlined plans to transform Bank junction, where Oxbridge graduate Ying Tao was killed in a HGV collision six months ago as she cycled to work.

However Transport for London, which has the final say, said approval would only be granted if it could be sure the changes would not bring central London roads to gridlock.

Under proposals that could be implemented on a temporary basis within a year, only buses and cyclists would be allowed to use the six-arm junction in the heart of the Square Mile between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.

Drivers would be diverted away from the junction by “no entry” signs on approach roads, with any who failed to comply being issued with £130 fines.

Iain Simmons, the City Corporation’s “All change at Bank” project director, said: “Bank is surrounded by these magnificent buildings – the Bank of England, Royal Exchange and Mansion House – but it’s the most appalling place.”

There were 105 collisions in the area in the five years to last November, resulting in 118 casualties, 16 of them serious and one involving the death of a pedestrian who was hit by a bus. Half the victims were pedestrians, a third were cyclists and the remainder were motorcyclists.

“We are confident we can reduce casualties by at least half,” Mr Simmons said. “The only people who are getting killed or seriously injured at Bank are vulnerable road users.”

Research by the City Corporation found that during the 8am-9am rush hour, 18,000 people cross the junction. There are now as many people on bikes as in cars, due to a 130 per cent rise in cycle commuters in the last five years.

The junction is regarded by Corporation officials as “completely dysfunctional”. Computer modelling has suggested that preventing vehicles from getting stuck at Bank would reduce congestion across the Square Mile.

TfL is not expected to decide until next Spring or summer whether to approve the traffic ban. The City Corporation wants TfL to redesign nearby Monument junction, where there have been 78 collisions causing 93 casualties in five years, 12 of them serious, to make the Bank changes work more effectively.

Michael Welbank, chairman of the City Corporation’s transportation committee, denied mounting a “war” on drivers. “We are just fanning the flames of something that is already started,” he said.

“Cars are the problem. We are divvying it up to benefit the main users of our streets. They are pedestrians. It’s pedestrians that have lost out.”

A TfL spokeswoman said it backed the changes in principle but would undertake its own modelling. “As much as we are fully supportive of the Bank project, we are responsible for the whole of London’s road network and making sure that traffic flows,” she said.

Leon Daniels, managing director of TfL surface transport, said: “We are supporting the City in delivering a scheme that will help reduce the number of collisions and ensure safer routes and improve bus journey times.”

Consultants at Barts Health record “video selfies” in support of junior doctors


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More than 80 consultants at London’s biggest NHS trust have recorded video “selfies” backing their junior doctors in the row with the Government over new contracts.

The top doctors agreed to show solidarity for their junior colleagues who fear the changes due to be imposed next August by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will damage patient safety and result in large pay cuts.

The film, made by anaesthetist Dr Ruth Bird, features 85 consultants from St Bartholomew’s, the Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals holding a sign saying “I support junior doctors”. The video has received about 4,000 hits on YouTube in a matter of days.

It comes after the medical council at Barts – made up of senior clinicians – issued “unanimous support” for junior doctors after discussing the effect of the new contracts on morale, training and safety.

The British Medical Association will on Thursday [November 5] begin balloting junior doctors on whether to take strike action, including a possible walk-out, with a decision due after November 18.

Dr Bird, 30, who works cardiac anaesthesia and cardiac intensive care at St Bart’s, said she wanted to demonstrate that many consultants were as “outraged” as junior doctors at the proposals.

“People are worried about job security, worried about their families, worried they won’t be able to pay their mortgages,” she told the Standard. “Having the bonus of people you look up to and learn from saying ‘This is not right, and we support you’, is motivating and very nice to see.”

She has been qualified for seven years but has £30,000 of student debt and will be a junior doctor for at least five more years. She said she and her orthopaedic surgeon husband Simon Fleming, who also works at Barts Health, would have to sell their flat if the feared 20 per cent pay cuts became reality.

“Junior doctors work really hard, and we do this because we care. I just wanted to show that the bosses are there for us. It made me proud to be part of Barts Health and proud of our bosses,” she said.

Junior doctors currently receive higher pay rates for working outside of 7am-7pm during the week but the Government wants to extend “normal” hours later into the night and into Saturday, as part of moves to cut the maximum hours a junior doctor can work from 91 to 72 hours a week.

Mr Hunt wants to improve patient safety by tackling the “weekend effect” of higher death rates among patients who are admitted between Friday and Monday.

However he has been accused of misrepresenting academic research for wrongly linking the death rates to the number of doctors on duty.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have already guaranteed that no junior doctor will see a pay cut compared to their current contract and the maximum number of hours any doctor can work will reduce.

“Strike action is not the way forward and always puts patients at risk. As many medical Royal Colleges and NHS leaders have urged, the BMA should come back to the negotiating table.”

Patient: why I allowed surgeon to remove my kidney with a robot live on the internet


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A cancer patient who had her kidney removed by robot agreed to have the operation broadcast live on the internet because she believed it would keep her surgeon on his toes.

Denise Parker, 54, underwent the two-hour procedure at Guy’s hospital as part of a 24-hour global online seminar showing the skills of the world’s best robotic surgeons.

Guy’s performs about 400 robotic operations a year on cancer patients, the most in the UK, and was the country’s only hospital invited to take part.

Mrs Parker’s operation was performed by consultant urological surgeon Ben Challacombe using Guy’s new £2 million da Vinci Xi robot.

“I knew that as long as he didn’t get stage fright, he would perform 110 per cent with the world watching what he was doing,” she said.

“I put my life in his hands and I’m so glad I went with his recommendations.” She joked: “I had my chance to be televised all over the world and I had not a stitch of make-up on.”

Her family watched via the hospital’s Twitter feed and the Evening Standard was invited into theatre to film the operation. Mr Challacombe operated the robot from a corner of the theatre, with his back turned to the patient.

After the kidney was cut free, it was placed in a plastic bag and pulled from one of the “keyhole” incisions made in the side of her chest.

A tumour had been discovered by chance in her right kidney when she fell ill with gall stones while on holiday in Malta in September. “That was such a shock,” she said. “Apparently this kind of tumour doesn’t display any symptoms until it is too late.”

Robots were introduced at Guy’s in 2004 by Professor Prokar Dasgupta. He oversaw Mrs Parker’s operation to ensure the live broadcast did not compromise her safety. The new robot, the second at Guy’s, will enable a further 150 operations a year to be performed.

Denise Parker and Ben Challacombe before the operation

Denise Parker and Ben Challacombe before the operation

Mrs Parker, a telephonist from Basildon, who has two adult children and a 10-month-old granddaughter, Ronnie, was walking around on the morning following her operation. She was released from hospital last Friday.

Mr Challacombe, who has performed 400 partial or full kidney removals with the robot, said it helped him operate more quickly, with greater precision and improved safety.

“If there is a problem we can usually fix it,” he said. “If there is bleeding we can usually stop it. It’s very unusual that things can’t be achieved with a keyhole technique.”

He encountered difficulties locating the kidney because of her high body mass index but declared the operation a success. “You never score 100 per cent on any exam, on any operation, but we are high 90s here.”

London medics secure £50,000 from crowdfunding to test 70p malaria drug on cancer patients


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Ready to go: from left, Prof Sanjeev Krishna, Dr Yolanda Augustin, fundraiser Gary Douch, Professor Devinder Kumar and Pan Pantziarka

From left, Prof Sanjeev Krishna, Dr Yolanda Augustin, fundraiser Gary Douch, Professor Devinder Kumar and Pan Pantziarka

An anti-malaria drug that costs 70p a day is to be given to cancer patients in one of the UK’s first crowdfunded drug trials.

Doctors at St George’s hospital, in Tooting, have secured £50,000 to see if promising results from a small study can be repeated in a larger trial involving 140 patients.

More than 270 people, including patients, support groups and many backers unknown to the team, pledged cash to allow them to continue to investigate the benefits of “repurposing” the malaria drug Artesunate as a treatment for colorectal cancer.

Doctors said “donations poured in from across the world” when they used social media to promote the appeal via the Futsci crowdfunding platform for medical research.

They said it showed how doctors and the public could work together to find quick solutions to cancer. Conventional methods of funding research can involve laborious applications to quangos and charities and take years to produce results.

Dr Yolanda Augustin, clinical research fellow in oncology at St George’s, said Artesunate appeared to be a “potent killer” of microscopic cancer cells that spread away from the main tumour.

By giving it to patients for two weeks prior to surgery, it helped to “disinfect” the body and reduce the chances of cancerous cells spreading as a result of the operation.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in England, with 33,765 cases registered in 2013. Less than 60 per cent of patients survive for five years.

Devinder Kumar, professor of colorectal surgery at St  George’s, said: “Repurposing Artesunate could change the way bowel cancer is treated in the future and make a significant difference to the lives of millions of sufferers.”

An initial trial of 23 patients found cancer recurred in one person who had received the treatment, compared to six who were given a placebo. The new trials will recruit patients from St George’s and possibly hospitals in Surrey and Essex.

Artesunate belongs to the family of drugs derived from traditional Chinese medicine, whose use as an anti-malarial was discovered in the 1970s by Tu Youyou, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine.

Pan Pantziarka, a campaigner and scientist with the Anticancer Fund, said the lack of commercial funding was a “road block” to repurposing drugs.

He said: “This trial is a chance to prove that Artesunate can stop bowel cancer recurring after surgery, but it could also highlight a funding solution that we can use for other diseases.”

Gary Douch started the Bowel Disease UK charity from his hospital bed whilst recovering from bowel surgery. It raised the money to fund the first three years of research at St George’s.

He said: “We are delighted to be involved in such a ground breaking project. BDUK was specifically setup to fund research and now we have the opportunity to be part of something quite unique and life changing.”


Police chief: I wouldn’t commute by bike in London, there are too many risks


A police chief has admitted that she would be too frightened to commute by bike in London because “there are too many risks”.

Suzette Davenport, head of roads policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, spoke out during an investigation into cycle safety by the daughter of a cyclist killed in Regent Street.

Ms Davenport, the chief constable of Gloucestershire police, said she had cycled in London but told the BBC: “If you said to me, would I feel safe as a commuter in London, then , no, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do that.

“It’s too busy, there are too many risks. Every day there are a range of people who don’t go home at the end of the day.”

The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in London fell 11 per cent last year to 432 but the total number of all cycling injuries rose to 5,146 – the 10th successive year-on-year increase and the highest since 1989, according to Transport for London.

BBC journalist Anna Tatton-Brown’s father Michael Mason was one of 12 cyclists killed in road collisions in London last year. As part of her investigation for the Victoria Live programme, former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer said the Crown Prosecution Service not the police should have the final say in deciding whether to bring a prosecution.

Sir Keir said: “I think there is a very strong case for saying if there is a death involved – if it’s serious enough to have a criminal investigation – it ought to go over to the CPS for a final decision.”

He said that there may be a need to “start looking at the balance” of liability in civil cases, though he ruled out “strict liability”, where the driver is automatically considered at fault.

He said: “If a cyclist is knocked off by a driver of a car or some other vehicle, there are the beginnings of a presumption it’s the vehicle that is in the wrong.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital admits patient records crisis left it unsure how many children were treated in time


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Great Ormond Street Hospital today apologised after discovering that an inadequate IT system left it unable to check whether its patients were being treated in time.

The world-famous children’s hospital has launched an urgent inquiry and is alerting all hospitals across the UK who have referred patients to it for specialist care.

The Care Quality Commission, the NHS watchdog, has delayed publishing a potentially critical report into the hospital while checks are made into whether any patients have suffered harm as a result of delayed treatment.

Between 300 to 400 children have already been found to have waited more than the 18-week legal maximum for their treatment to start. But the figures could run into thousands as the hospital has been collecting “unreliable” data on waiting times since new rules were introduced in 2007.

GOSH said in a statement: “We have recently discovered that we have not had the appropriate IT system and the right processes to track our patients accurately.

“We would like to reassure our patients and their families that throughout this process we are ensuring that all patients that need treatment are treated or have plans to be assessed or seen.  

“We are very sorry that our record keeping and processes to date have not matched the high standards that we, and others, expect of ourselves.”

Problems were first identified earlier this year when a new executive team discovered that the use of paper records remained widespread, making  it impossible to access all patient information on a central computer.

This meant that hospital managers “didn’t know when the clock had started” on a child’s wait for treatment – or even if the treatment had been completed.

This month the hospital, which has 40,000 inpatients and 230,000 outpatient appointments a year,  “paused” its duty to provide 18-week waiting time data to NHS England. A new computer system is being ordered but it may take “a couple of years” to install.

Some GOSH patients may be offered treatment in other NHS children’s hospitals or in private hospitals to clear the backlog. Children affected by the delays are those awaiting non-emergency treatment but who require the high-level care provided at GOSH due to underlying or congenital complications.

CQC inspectors visited GOSH in April and were due to publish a report in August. Hospital bosses fear failing the requirement for the trust to be “well led”, which could result in the embarrassment of it being placed in special measures.

Edward Baker, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Since our inspection, the trust brought to our attention that there were problems regarding the reliability of their patient information systems. The publication of the CQC report has been delayed while the trust undertakes an assessment of what the impact has been on patients waiting for admission or appointments at the hospital.

“We are continuing to work very closely with the trust and stakeholders, and will be publishing the findings from our inspection as soon as the required reviews and assessments are completed.”

Many GOSH patients have complex care needs and may be seen by up to 10 consultants. Children are normally referred to GOSH via another hospital rather than by their GP, further complicating the record-keeping. About half are referred from hospitals outside the capital.

NHS insiders with knowledge of GOSH claim it suffers from weak central management. Powerful consultants, famed for their clinical excellence, are able to operate in “silos” and sidestep the modern-day NHS’s target-driven culture and demands for seven-day working.

An NHS England London spokeswoman said: “As the lead commissioner of services at Great Ormond Street, we want to ensure that all patients at the hospital have received timely treatment and so we have asked the trust to undertake a full review and share the findings with us through regular updates and meetings we have with them.”

Here is the statement in full issued by Great Ormond Street Hospital to the Evening Standard:

“We strive to ensure that all of our patients and their families receive the best possible care and experience.

“Our FFT results (Friends and Family Test) are consistently among the best in the country with 98% patients and their families recommending GOSH as a place to be treated.  Our clinical outcomes put us amongst the best in the world for children’s care.

“However, we have recently discovered that we have not had the appropriate IT system and the right processes to track our patients accurately.

“As a specialist tertiary hospital, the majority of our patients are referred to us from other hospitals and many of these patients have no clear date as to when the ‘clock started’ if they are to be treated under 18 week rules. The issue around adequate tracking and data systems came to light following concerns around the number of patients with these unknown clock starts. This in turn led to a wider review of our information and our systems and processes.

“The review found our processes wanting and we acted swiftly to bring in the technical expertise we need to help us to address this issue.

“While we undertake this work, we have decided to pause the reporting of this data. This is to allow us to conduct a thorough review and assure ourselves that our records are accurate.

“Work is already underway to address the issues with our IT system and we are rolling out new training on how best to record patient data to ensure our processes for managing data correctly are as robust as possible going forward. We are working with our regulator and other NHS national partners in this work.

“The 18 week data does not relate to critically ill, emergency or urgent care.  We would like to reassure our patients and their families that throughout this process we are ensuring that all patients that need treatment are treated or have plans to be assessed or seen. 

“We are very sorry that our record keeping and processes to date have not matched the high standards that we, and others, expect of ourselves.

“We are continuing to communicate with families on a case by case basis and we are committed to providing the best possible care for patients. We will continue to prioritise and treat patients according to clinical need.”

‘Day of action’ each week against rogue drivers as average speed cameras go live in London



Police yesterday vowed to carry out a “day of action” seeking out rogue drivers each week in a bid to improve road safety in London.

More than 300 key junctions will be targeted alongside a poster campaign to highlight winter dangers in advance of the clocks going back on Sunday.

The initiative was launched today ahead of the switch-on of new motorway-style average speed cameras on the A40 next week. The cameras are also being installed on the A406 North Circular Road, the A316 and the A2, where they will enforce speed limits from early next year.

Today’s crackdown will target speeding, careless driving, red-light jumping, drink and drug driving, using a mobile phone while driving, driving without a licence or insurance and driving a dangerous vehicle.

The number of people injured in road collisions in Greater London last year rose 13 per cent on the previous year to 30,785 casualties. The number killed fell from 132 to 127 and the number killed or seriously injured fell seven per cent to 2,167 – the lowest figure ever recorded.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rickett, of the Met’s roads and transport policing command, said: “The impact on victims and their families of serious and fatal collisions cannot be overstated. Targeting our activity on the causes of collisions… is proving extremely effective.”

Cavendish: I won’t bash Boris for saying no to the Tour de France

MARK Cavendish has said Boris Johnson deserved no criticism for refusing to bring the Tour de France back to London.

Transport for London last month won the right to host the first three stages of the 2017 race, only for Mr Johnson to withdraw his support, saying it was a “no brainer” that the rumoured £35 million cost would be better spent on safe cycling lanes.


Cavendish said London’s hosting of the 2007 Grand Depart – when he rode the Tour for the first time – was “the most incredible experience”. But he insisted the Mayor’s commitment to cycling could not be doubted.

He told the Standard: “I think that with the support that Boris has for cycling, there has got to be a reason behind it. There has got to be more than just: ‘We don’t want to do it’.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as he can’t be arsed with it. He’s been a big supporter of cycling. I’m not about to bash him for it.”

Cavendish, who lives in Italy, is in London to support the return of six-day indoor racing to the capital for the first time in 35 years. The event, which he described as “the Tour de France on the track”, begins on Sunday [18] at the Olympic velodrome. 

A shoulder injury sustained when Cavendish collided with a parked car during the Tour of Britain last month robbed him of the chance to compete for the first time at the 2012 velodrome.

Nightclub-style light shows, loud music, beer and frenetic pursuits will create a party atmosphere. “You have got racing on for a whole night, for six nights,” Cavendish said. “I would loved to have raced here.”

He said his injury record – he also required surgery after crashing out of the 2014 Tour de France – would make him worry if his children followed him into the sport.

Cavendish became a father for the second time when wife Peta gave birth to son Frey two months ago. Their daughter Delilah, three, has just learned to ride a bike.

“Obviously I know the injuries I get and I know the dangers,” he said. “As a protective father I’m not that keen on it, but I will always be supportive of whatever my kids want to do. But I will always be a bit nervous because I know what can happen to cyclists.”

He added: “Delilah can ride without stabilisers now. She was always flying round on her balance bike. She had a sports day at nursery and she won everything. I was dead proud of that. I said: ‘Do you want a present?’ She said: ‘Yes, I want a bike with pedals like you.'”

The increasing popularity of cycling in the UK was “incredible to see”, he said. “When I first started cycling it was a pretty niche sport. 

“To see, during my career, more people riding their bikes in this country – whether it’s racing, with their family as a past-time, whether it’s commuting – it’s pretty impressive. It’s growing not just as a sport but as a way of life.”


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