London cycle wars: can Boris bikes hold out against Ofo, Urbo, Mobike and oBike?

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When the new generation of Boris bikes were unveiled earlier this week, Sadiq Khan was nowhere to be seen.

His predecessor as Mayor, Boris Johnson, rarely missed a two-wheeled photo opportunity. By contrast, Mr Khan, despite picking up the £80m bill to keep the scheme running until 2022, preferred to be in Dagenham to plug his vision for a Hollywood-style film studio.

London’s affably intellectual walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman, (below), despatched in place of the Mayor, was predictably upbeat about the future of the Santander-sponsored bike hire scheme.

Will Norman and new Boris Bike

But this week a turf war began in earnest that pits the £1,000 Pashley-built bikes against cheaper upstarts from China and Ireland, and which could threaten the long-term viability of the City Hall scheme.

Ofo Islington

Ofo, which claims to have 10 million bikes in 180 cities across the globe, yesterday  expanded from its pilot borough of Hackney into Islington and the City of London.

Urbo Waltham Forest

A day earlier, Urbo launched 250 bikes in Waltham Forest. Two months ago, Mobike launched 250 bikes in Ealing. Earlier this summer, oBike was first on the scene with 1,000 bikes spread across central London.

See here for my interview with Ofo co-founder Zhang Yanqi: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/boss-of-new-dockless-bike-firm-cycling-in-london-will-be-as-big-as-in-amsterdam-a3675391.html

From modest beginnings, great things are planned. Ofo wants to operate “across all of London, central, inner and outer” with a fleet of “50,000 to 150,000” bikes. Mobike is talking to numerous London boroughs. Urbo wants to expand across London and the UK.

The bikes are the latest example of “disruptor” firms shaking-up an established market. Look to China to see how they are on every pavement and have proved popular with the smartphone savvy, cost-aware younger generation. Globally there are millions in circulation.

Their primary advantage is that they are “dockless” – meaning that, unlike Boris bikes, they can be left anywhere. In-built with a GPS mapping device, they are located, unlocked and paid for with a smartphone.

“Geofences”, virtual geographic boundaries that prevent the bikes from being unlocked by others outside a chosen area, are used to encourage riders to return them to their “home” borough. Bonus points are awarded to riders who leave them in designated parking areas.

Unlike Boris bikes, dockless bikes require little infrastructure and can be introduced almost overnight. They are cheaper to hire – 50p for 30 minutes, compared with a £2 minimum daily charge for a Boris bike.

Ealing council leader Julian Bell was one of the first to spot their potential. He had failed to convince Mr Johnson to expand the Boris bikes scheme west to his borough. “We always got the message: ‘We are going east rather than west,” he told the Standard.

“Once I was shown the dockless scheme, I thought it was a much more flexible and customer-friendly system. In my view, docked schemes are more expensive, less flexible and dockless are the future. Once Mobike came and said ‘no cost to you’, it was a no-brainer.”

It was a similar situation in Waltham Forest, the capital’s “Mini Holland” borough, with its cycle paths and closed residential streets that favour the cyclist and pedestrian over the rat-running commuter.

It too had wanted Boris bikes, but was told they would go no further east than the Olympic park.

“There has been a history of requesting Boris bikes to a wider catchment than central London,” said Clyde Loakes, Waltham Forest’s deputy leader.

“We pretty much recognised two or three years ago that as we hadn’t got them for the Olympics, we were never going to get them, because of the cost of implementing the infrastructure. We have not been chasing that dream for the past couple of years.

“Dockless bikes came onto the horizon nine to 12 months ago, with a number of different players. We had all the companies in to present to us. We thought Urbo were the best fit for us.”

The dockless bikes are most easily differentiated by their deliberately eye-catching colours. Mobike is orange, Urbo is green, Ofo is yellow – as was oBike.

oBike Wandsworth

It was first on the scene in central London but its plans went horribly wrong when 130 oBikes were impounded (above) by Wandsworth council. It branded them a “yellow bike plague” for cluttering pavements, especially around Clapham Junction station.

oBike had to pay the council to get them back, and quit the capital for Oxford. But it has vowed to mend its ways and return to London. “We are in negotiations with numerous councils,” its UK lead, Haroon Khan, revealed.

“We had to pay an impound fee. We can look at that as a negative. But the conversations that came out of having to pay made us incredibly empathetic to the cost to the taxpayer of the council getting involved.”

There is big money at stake. Venture capitalists have invested billions in the likes of Ofo and Mobike. According to BikeBiz magazine, it is the use of smartphone technology – and the direct link it creates to users’ bank accounts – that has sparked interest, in the same way that apps for iTunes or Uber enable a one-click revenue stream.

The new firms also share an unwillingness to talk about their business models. Urbo is said to need each bike to be hired 10 times a day. Mobike aims for five hires a day. At present, its 250 bikes centred on Acton are being used about 600 times a week.

Safeeyah Kazi and new Boris Bike

Boris bikes: 11 million rides but subsidised by £3.6 million a year

By comparison, the vital statistics of Boris bikes are measured in millions. They will clock up about 11 million journeys this year and generate more than £11 million in hire charges.

But even with Santander’s annual sponsorship of £6.4 million, they require £3.62 million a year from Transport for London to break even. That’s about 30p subsidy per ride.

Councils now have to pay TfL if they want Boris bikes to expand into their borough. The scheme will reach Brixton this winter, at a cost of about £3 million to Lambeth council. There are “no plans” to extend it into the suburbs.

Mr Johnson’s aim of requiring no taxpayer funding was never achieved but it is second only to Paris as the most popular bike hire scheme in Europe. It has clocked up more than 60 million journeys since launch in 2010.

Will Norman believes dockless cycles can co-exist alongside Boris bikes. City Hall is not panicking but “watching with real interest”, he said.

“There are almost 12,000 [Boris bikes] in London,” Mr Norman said. “We have seen five or six record hire months this year. I think we can see the enduring popularity of this. At the same time, we can count the dockless bikes in the hundreds at the moment.

“For our ambition to get more people cycling round the city, one of the biggest barriers is people who don’t have access to bikes. The Santander bikes are fantastic for that in central London, but in other places I’m really keen to see some of the dockless bikes work.”

He added: “I think the price point is not necessarily the key here. It’s the quality of the experience and the ability to know exactly where you are going to find the bikes, and their ease of use around central London.

“The dockless schemes will continue to grow and evolve, but I think there is a space for those to grow and evolve with the Santander scheme.”

Ofo, which launched in the UK in Cambridge, followed by Oxford, Norwich and Hackney, has set its sight on operating within the North and South circular roads, then possibly beyond.

Mobike, which has partnered with British Cycling to get two million people on bikes, is understood to be in discussions with Brent and Hounslow councils, and is also keen to move into Richmond and Kingston.

Steve Pyer, UK general manager for Mobike, said: “We are talking to pretty much every borough. I can see it going Londonwide.

“The rhetoric has changed from six to 12 months ago. Then it was: ‘The Chinese are coming, how do we stop it?’ Six months ago, people were a little bit nervous. Now they are starting to realise this is a benefit and it can work.”

Councils, for their part, are avoiding exclusive deals with one operator as they see how the market develops. They don’t pay for the bikes, but neither do they benefit financially from them – though some boroughs have tried (and failed) to levy a fee.

The main concern for councils, post the oBike fiasco, is for operators to behave responsibility and for streets not to be littered with abandoned bikes. A code of conduct has been drawn up by TfL and the boroughs.

“Clearly, we want to learn form others’ unfortunate experiences,” said Cllr Loakes. “If you are going to bring your dockless bikes to Waltham Forest, it’s got to be done with our consent and our support. Do it in the face of us and we will not be best pleased.

“Success for me is having plenty of people using the bikes, using them responsibly, a low level of complaints and good customer service response from Urbo if there is an issue.”

Most agree that there will be a “market shakedown” within the next 12 to 18 months that will determine who survives.

“I think there will eventually be two dockless models in London – the market will determine that,” said Cllr Loakes. “It will also be hard for boroughs to resist dockless bikes coming their way. The sooner we get there, the better – then we can ‘geofence’ the whole of London, and people can go out of borough and not be restricted.
“We still have not cottoned on to the impact of electric-assisted cycles. I think that is the next big thing coming over the hill. That is probably where Santander will go. The infrastructure is largely there to support that.”

Cllr Bell agreed: “We need to resolve the issue of having a Londonwide scheme that can cover every borough and is much better for the customer. Yes, we do want competition, but we also want the ability to cover all of London.

“I think we will find that the dockless bikes will go into central London as well. We will have to see how the Santander scheme holds up against the competition.”

  • An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard
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Ready to rumble: new £1,000 Boris Bike is a Brit (and a bit slower than the old one)

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Wil Norman and Keith Moor

Cycling comissioner Will Norman and Santander’s Keith Moor

The first Boris bikes to be built in the UK were unveiled today as part of an upgrade of London’s cycle hire scheme.

The bikes are built by Pashley, known for its traditional cycles, and cost about £1,000 each. About 600 a year will gradually replace the older Canadian-built bikes that date to the launch of the scheme in July 2010.

They have been introduced under the £79.7m five-year contract with operator Serco that was signed by Mayor Sadiq Khan in September last year.

They are broadly similar in appearance, but have larger front and rear lights to improve safety and smaller wheels to make them easier to manoeuvre. A gel seat has been designed to improve comfort and there have been upgrades to the gears and brakes. The frame is about 1cm shorter to make it easier to get on and off.

Boris bike details

Thousands of the bikes, built in Stratford-upon-Avon, are due to be added to the 11,500-strong fleet over the coming years. They are said to be easier to maintain, helping to reduce costs.

Mr Khan said: “Tens of thousands of Londoners and tourists enjoy using the bikes to get around our city every single day, so by making them more comfortable and manoeuvrable we’re hoping they’ll be even more popular. That’s good for our health, our air quality and for tackling congestion.”

Will Norman and new Boris Bike

Cycling commissioner Will Norman and the new Boris bike

Last year saw a record 10.3 million hire of the bikes, making the scheme, which costs from £2 a day to use, the second most popular in Europe after Paris. There have been 8.7 million hires so far this year, with a new record within sight.

The new cycles have inbuilt bluetooth and the capacity for GPS technology, which will allow Serco to record the performance of the bikes. They have undergone robust tests, including on mountain bike routes.

The bikes use the same docking stations as the current models. There are almost 800 docking stations across inner London, with the scheme, officially known as Santander Cycles, due to expand to Brixton this winter.

Adrian Williams, Pashley Cycles chief executive, said: “I am immensely proud of our team’s achievement in successfully developing a completely new bicycle for London. It is a bicycle of exceptional quality, designed with the rider’s safety and enjoyment in mind, whilst ensuring that maintenance and operating costs are kept to a minimum.”

Safeeyah Kazi and new Boris Bike

Evening Standard trainee reporter Safeeyah Kazi with the new Boris bike

My test rides on the new Boris bike:

At first sight, only the reshaped mudguards appear different. But on a test ride, the first thing I noticed was the speed of the new bike – it definitely felt slower.

There are three gears as before, but it didn’t take long before I was coasting along, with no resistance in the top gear to pedal against. Boris bikes were never fast – a factor that no doubt has prevented many accidents – but the Pashley bike gives as leisurely a ride as you’d expect from its own-brand cycles.

The lack of speed may also be due to the smaller wheels and the wider handlebars, which result in more nimble handling but poorer air dynamics.

There appears to be little difference in weight, despite a promised 2kg reduction in what in bike terms is something of a tank.

Borois bike rumble strip

Ready to rumble: the new bike copes better with Royal Parks’ rumble strips

The good news, for those who have to endure the “rumble strips” in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, is that it copes with these slightly better than the older bike.

A new saddle-post clamp makes it easier move the seat up and down, replacing one of the most breakable parts of the previous bike.

I initially thought the vertical “guide line” had been removed – making it harder to avoid a wonky saddle position – but it has been moved to the side of the stem. Alas the temperamental bell has been retained.

New bikes are always a treat, but don’t expect to get out of the slow lane on this one.

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

Colleagues save matron after ‘pain from Planking’ turns out to be massive heart attack

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A hospital matron was saved by her colleagues when she suffered a heart attack at work.

Liz Hutchison was minutes from death due to a rare cardiac defect when cardiologist Dr Ahmed Elghamaz managed to restore the blood flow to her heart.

A colleague had persuaded her to undergo an ECG (electrocardiogram) scan when she complained of chest pain, and this revealed there had been unusual changes to her heart.

She was rushed to the catheter lab at Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, where she is the cardiology matron. An angiogram revealed she was suffering from spontaneous coronary artery dissection, preventing blood flowing to her heart.

“I was so lucky that I was at work at the time,” Mrs Hutchison, 57, told the Standard. “Dr Elghamaz said to me if I had ignored it and got in my car to go home, I wouldn’t have survived.

“His prompt action saved my life that day. He literally had seconds, minutes, to get a stent in there to allow blood flow. He is my knight in shining armour.”

Mrs Hutchison thought the pain in her chest was a pulled muscle – she had been doing a “planking” challenge earlier in the week – but when it returned she agreed to be checked over. “It went from my chest into my armpit, and I mentioned it to my team mate, who said, let’s do an ECG,” she said.

“They did the angiogram radially, through the wrist. I was watching the screen, and everything looked fine. Then they did a couple more shots, and I remember Ahmed saying ‘What the hell is that?’ and asking for a stent.

”I knew something was happening, but I was just thinking, ‘That’s an awfully large stent.’ One of my colleagues said, ‘Shall we put the call out?’ – meaning the cardiac arrest call – and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the anaesthetist standing over me.”

Mrs Hutchison did not go into cardiac arrest but her blood pressure and heart rate were dropping, and the team was on the verge of intubating her to take over her breathing.

Dr Elghamaz, who was the cardiac consultant on duty that day, said: “It was the worst dissection I have ever seen. It progressed so quickly while we were operating, which is uncommon, and we almost had to revive her.

“It was so dramatic. Half the staff were pretty much crying and almost saying goodbye. Another minute or two and she would not have made it. When you’re working with the heart, you only have a very short window of time. We had to act very quickly. The nurses were heroic – I needed tools very quickly and they just focused on what they were doing and helped me.”

Mrs Hutchson, a grandmother, has fully recovered since the incident in March, and began running mini marathons again in June. She has returned to work and wants to raise awareness of spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which affects about one per cent of heart attack patients.

Dr Elghamaz said: “I’ve known her for the best part of 10 years – so have many of the team. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever faced, operating on her, but she’s well now and that’s the most important thing.”

NHS ‘digital dating agency’ chief: Brexit threatens roll-out of new technologies

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jamiesmithphoto-4014

The woman leading the roll-out of new technology in the London NHS today warned that Brexit could damage the capital’s ambition to be at the centre of a global digital health revolution.

Tara Donnelly heads DigitalHealth.London, a “digital dating agency” that uses £2 million of EU cash to help tech entrepreneurs partner with NHS organisations to improve patient care.

Projects that it has supported include a smartphone app, DrDoctor, that has reduced missed appointments at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS trust by 40 per cent, and the secure messaging system medCrowd, which allows medics to share patient information safely.

Established by NHS England and then mayor Boris Johnson last year, DigitalHealth.London is half-way through a three year Accelerator programme – but future advances are uncertain without access to further EU funding.

Ms Donnelly, a former chief executive of West Middlesex hospital, told the Standard “We would struggle to do this with our national NHS money. Without the EU money, this programme would not be as rich as it is.”

Click here for the story that appeared in the Evening Standard: Tara Brexit

She said there was a “risk” that similar fledgling ideas may not get developed without EU funding post-Brexit. “It’s been an incredibly valuable grant for us,” she said. “It would be hard to imagine how we could do something without a source.”

She added: “It’s fair to say there is concern about getting the best technical talent and recruitment of the best people. In some ways, what is more concerning is the impact it could have on the NHS workforce.

“If health organisations are struggling to recruit more doctors and nurses, they will struggle to give attention to the new technologies that are being developed.”

The Accelerator programme employs “digital navigators” with in-depth knowledge of the NHS to help the tech firms make contacts and adapt their products to suit the needs of different NHS trusts.

Last year 130 firms applied and 31 were selected to receive assistance. This year 127 applied and 30 were selected.

“Dr Doctor has been around for a number of years. When it joined the programme it was reaching 1.8 million patients a year. Now it’s reaching 5.5 million patients a year. By this time next year it will be 10 million,” Ms Donnelly said. “I don’t think that good ideas do spread themselves. They need some level of support.”

jamiesmithphoto-3921

Dr Felix Jackson

Dr Felix Jackson, an anaesthetist turned entrepreneur and founder of medCrowd, said he was “very concerned” that London would lose out to cities such as Berlin post-Brexit in being able to attract the next generation of “bright young things”.

He said the programme had made an “absolutely fantastic difference”. “It’s been absolutely phenomenal for us – totally game-changing, We got exposure to the real world of the NHS.

“We found something the NHS actually had a problem with. We could then develop the right technology and they got us the right conversations with the right people. The whole thing is overseen with a big ‘stamp of approval’. They have vetted us and checked us out. Conversations progressed much quicker.”

Biggest-ever women’s field as Six Day London returns to Olympic velodrome

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Six Day London

Neah Evans at Six Day London last year

One of the UK’s top women cyclists today told how female stars such as Laura Kenny had helped transform a hobby for “geeks” into a mass participation sport.

Neah Evans said Kenny, Britain’s most successful woman Olympian with four golds, and other Team GB elite riders had been fantastic role models in attracting girls to cycling, the third most popular in the UK with two million people riding each week.

Evans, 27, is part of the biggest ever women’s field to compete at the Six Day London event being held at the former Olympic velodrome from tonight, Tuesday, until Sunday.

Huge crowds are expected to watch UK riders including Mark Cavendish, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald compete against a top international field.

Neah Evans and Katie Archibald

Neah Evans and Katie Archibald at the velodrome last year

This is the third year the Six Day format – where a light show, DJ and loud music create a party atmosphere – has been hosted at the velodrome, now part of the Lee Valley VeloPark.

Evans, who is targeting the Commonwealth Games next year in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, was attracted to track cycling by the “adrenaline rush”, hitting speeds in excess of 40mph during races.

She said: “I would say to girls thinking about it: just give it a go. Try it and see if you like it, and don’t give up after the first go. It’s much easier now to do a drop-in session and do it as a bit of a fitness thing.

“I was a hill runner and came to cycling quite late. I wanted to exercise and keep fit. I started in the velodrome, thought ‘this is really good fun’ and never stopped.

“To have a senior figure like Laura who attracts a lot more girls, or like Katie, who has been having a fantastic year, means there is always a female cyclist in the spotlight.

“I think a lot of people see cyclists in Lycra and think it’s not particularly cool. Then they see someone like Laura doing her photoshoots. Cycling has made her a role model. Because there is someone like Laura, it shows that cycling is not a geeky sport and your friends won’t mock you for it.”

Riders compete for world championship points and women will ride the Madison for the first time – a dramatic race in which teams of two riders use a “hand sling” to change places with their partner while riding at high speed.

Earlier this year Evans “retired” as a vet to concentrate full-time on sport after winning a place in British Cycling’s elite squad. Her appearance in London is her first since breaking her left collarbone and shoulder blade in a crash on a concrete velodrome in Italy in July.

“It’s a fantastic venue and such an atmosphere,” Evans said. “The way the stands are set up means you get people all the way round – there’s not a ‘dull spot’ where there is no audience. Because it is the Six Day, there is much more of an atmosphere than a normal UCI event.

“There is a huge amount of adrenalin – you finish racing later than you would normally but you are absolutely buzzing. It makes it such a fun event to be part of. You can see the crowds really get behind it. It’s a party atmosphere but we still take the racing very seriously, especially the girls. We go out there and we hit it quite hard.”

She added: “It’s a huge change for me this year. Last year, after the Six Day, a lot of people were going out on Sunday night. I got dropped off at the airport so I could fly off to Glasgow to work on the Monday. That was the norm.”

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

Spectacular: Walthamstow reservoirs open to public as Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve

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Walthamstow WetlandsVictorian reservoirs that have been closed to the public for 150 years will be reopened today as the largest urban wetland nature reserve in Europe.

The 211-hectare site in Walthamstow, seven times the size of the London Wetland Centre in Barnes, has been restored after a £10.6m investment and allows the chance to spot kingfisher, peregrine falcon, otters, weasel, grass snakes and bats as well as thousands of migrating birds. It is also home to the largest heronry in London.

WW LakeView8

Dubbed “London’s best kept secret” by Boris Johnson in his time as mayor, the Walthamstow Wetlands site is one of 37 sites of special scientific interest in the capital and is expected to attract 250,000 visitors a year.

The project – funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Waltham Forest council and Thames Water – includes the Grand Designs-style transformation of two derelict historic buildings.

WW cafe

The Engine House cafe

The Engine House has become a cafe and visitor centre, with its 33m-tall chimney rebuilt as a tower for nesting swifts and roosting bats. The Grade-II listed Italianate Coppermill Tower has a viewing platform with views of the City of London. A new cycle path runs through the site, which also includes London’s largest commercial fishery.

The site, which dates to 1863, remains operational, supplying 500 million litres a day from 10 reservoirs. Dogs are banned to avoid disturbing the wildlife.

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Peregrine falcon

Veronica Chrisp, director of Walthamstow Wetlands, said: “The absolutely crucial thing is that people understand it is a nature reserve and not a park. You won’t be able to swim in the water or take a boat out. It’s very much about appreciating the woildlife around the site.”

Council leader Clare Coghill said: “We are really excited to welcome visitors to the wetlands, which I am sure will soon become London’s worst kept secret.”

London Ambulance Service publishes review of response to terror attacks, Croydon tram crash and Grenfell fire

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London Bridge terror attack

Emergency services respond to the London Bridge terror attack in June

London Ambulance Service is reviewing the way it responds to terror attacks after police advice to “run, hide, tell” meant some casualties were difficult to find.

A number of people caught up in the London Bridge attacks were so well “barricaded” into hiding places in Borough Market that it took some time before they were found and given medical treatment.

Ambulance chiefs said they fully supported the “run, hide, tell” advice but first-response medics are being reminded that not all casualties may be easily found after a terrorist incident.

Eight people died at London Bridge and 48 casualties, including 28 needing immediate care, were taken to hospital. A total of 97 LAS staff and 63 vehicles were deployed. Police shot dead the three terrorists.

LAS chief executive Garrett Emmerson, in a presentation to the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “Run/hide/tell (the national police guidance) made the tracking of some casualties complex.”

Paul Woodrow, LAS director of operations, told the LAS board: “People did hide and they hid very well. Some of them were hidden with injuries. For us to get to them, it took longer than possibly it could [under normal circumstances].

“A lot of people barricaded themselves in different parts of the building. We are taking up with the Met police around what we might do with that.”

The LAS recently published an internal review of its response to the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March, the London Bridge attacks and Grenfell Tower fire in June and the Croydon tram crash last November, in a bid to learn lessons in the way it responds to future events.

Both Westminster Bridge and London Bridge were initially logged as road traffic incidents. A new system has been devised to identify such calls, which spark a large number of 999 calls, to prevent automatically dispatching crews into potentially dangerous areas. This was used in the Parsons Green Tube explosion last month.

Mr Woodrow said: “The difficult is that the initial calls have come in as something different. London Bridge wasn’t a firearms event. The only people that discharged weapons were the police, to neutralise the threat. But very quickly London Bridge developed into something more than a road traffic incident.

“With Parsons Green, automatic dispatch was switched off almost immediately. The majority of our resources that were sent to that were sent to a different rendezvous point. They were drawn in as they were required. That is the quickest thing we can do to protect our staff.”

The cumulative impact on LAS staff in dealing with the succession of major incidents has been “unprecedented”, with 1,000 undergoing post-traumatic assessments.

Those affected included not just front-line responders but, in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire, staff who had seen bodies being removed and data handlers who had been required to transcribe the desperate 999 calls made by residents as they begged to be rescued.

Mr Emmerson said: “We have been repeatedly tested over the last 10 months. Our response was fast, effective and saved many lives.”

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “Police guidance to ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ in the event of a gun or knife terror attack was developed by experts at the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, and is known to save lives.

“The ‘Hide until found’ element of the advice was developed with the Armed Police response in mind, and prevents putting innocent people in the path of armed officers who are there to neutralise the threat and make the area safe.

“Only once armed officers have made that area safe will paramedics be allowed access to injured people, and officers are able to do that most effectively when the public follows our safety advice. So ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ is far more likely to save your life, than put it at risk.”

 

Heathrow passenger saved after doctor spots CT scan danger on his iPad

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A passenger who collapsed after boarding a plane at Heathrow was saved when a doctor spotted he was at risk of death after viewing his CT scan on an iPad.

Glyn Danks was returning to Perth, Australia, after five weeks in the UK visiting family when he suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm – a rupture in the main blood vessel from the heart.

Just as the Etihad flight was about to “push back” from the terminal, around 930am on August 22, he lost consciousness, fell to the floor and stopped breathing. Crew members began CPR and called the emergency services, with fire, police and ambulance crews at Heathrow all responding.

Glyn Danks and the Northwick Park team

From left, with Mr Danks: Mayen Serrano, Scrub Nurse
Dr Amit Saxena, Consultant Anaesthetist
Dr Rakesh Patel, Consultant Interventional Radiologist
Dr Eldon Lehmann, Consultant Interventional Radiologist
Mr N Selva Theivacumar, Consultant Vascular & Endovascular Surgeon
Laura Bailey, Theatre Sister
Henna Islam, Diagnostic Radiographer

He was taken to Hillingdon hospital and immediately underwent a CT scan. But it was only when the images were viewed by Dr Rakesh Patel at Northwick Park hospital when the full extent of the danger to Mr Danks was spotted. Death occurs in more than 90 per cent of patients where the aneurysm bursts.

Dr Patel, a consultant interventional radiologist, who was in theatre with another patient, realised that Mr Danks needed immediate treatment and arranged for his ambulance transfer to Northwick Park, a specialist vascular centre in Harrow.

Mr Danks, 68, originally from Abbey Wood, said: “I went on the plane as normal and as I sat down there was a vacant seat beside me. I thought that was nice that I had a spare seat. I didn’t feel ill at all.

“The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor of the plane next to me. I could see lots of feet and I could hear lots of different people shouting and giving lots of advice.

“I didn’t feel any pain – it was as if I was in a dream. I couldn’t say anything or move anything. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital and being advised that I had to have a major op. If I didn’t have the operation it would be the end – there was no option but to have it.”

The surgical team at Northwick Park sedated Mr Danks and used a minimally invasive procedure, endovascular aneurysm repair, to insert a stent graft via his groin. The graft redirects the blood through the new graft rather than into the leaking aneurysm.

Dr Patel said: “I work at Hillingdon and Northwick Park, which are two separate trusts. I have an iPad, which was given to me by Hillingdon hospital. That allows me to access patient information and CT scans.

“I am the only one who has got one, and fortunately I had it here at Northwick Park when the registrar came in and said we have got this referral from Hillingdon. I took it out, saw that the patient had a ruptured aneurysm and said: ‘The patient needs to be transferred now.’”

Thoracic surgeon Selva Theivacumar said: “What is unique is that we had this collaboration between the two hospitals, the new technology that allowed us to treat him quickly, the response at Heathrow and the air crew members who were able to do CPR.

“Normally what happens is that something or other will tend to go wrong. In this particular case, everything went according to plan.”

Mr Danks, who was discharged from hospital six days later and has since flown back to Australia, said: “I’ve had no pain or discomfort following the operation. The procedure has been marvellous. It all worked. They’ve all done a brilliant job, everyone from A-Z. I’m here – 99 people wouldn’t be. I feel privileged and grateful. I will make it as good as possible for the how ever many years I’ve got left.”

  • An edited version of this article appeared in yesterday’s Evening Standard

Death of patient on New Year’s Day ‘not caused by ambulance computer crash’

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Victor Bede and sister Hazel Quigley

Victor Bede and sister Hazel Quigley

THE family of a man who could not be saved by paramedics after taking crystal meth on New Year’s Day today warned of the dangers of non-prescription drugs.

Victor Bede, 53, collapsed shortly after midnight in Queensway. An ambulance was delayed due to a computer crash but a coroner found its earlier arrival would not have helped due to the amount of drugs in his body.

Mr Bede’s brother Rob Reason said he had been surprised to discover that there was no antidote to amphetamine overdoses, and called for “recreational” drug users to be alerted.

Victor Bede

Victor Bede: delayed arrival of ambulance not to blame for his death

In a statement afterwards on behalf of his family, Mr Reason told the Standard: “One thing that we learnt at the inquest was that there is no antidote to the drug that Victor used – methyl amphetamine.

“We would like to see that fact widely disseminated as a warning to so-called recreational users. In fact, it would be our hope that the dangers of any type of non-prescription drugs would be further publicised.”

Westminster coroner’s court heard that the first 999 call about Mr Bede was made at 2.18am. The caller could not get through but was called back. Mr Bede was initially rated as a second priority call but was upgraded when he stopped breathing. An emergency crew arrived at 3.16am.

Click here for the Standard report in advance of the inquest.

London Ambulance Service’s computer system had crashed at 12.30am on the busiest night of the year, forcing call handlers to take details with pen and paper until 5.15am. A total of 2,810 calls received a delayed response.

The court heard that Mr Bede died after taking seven times the typical “recreational” limit of methyl amphetamine. Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe gave a narrative verdict and said: “Of all times this was the worst time to have a computer failure because it was such a busy time.”

Victor Bede and stepdad Michael Reason

Victor with stepdad Michael Reason

The family’s statement said they accepted the ambulance delay “probably did not materially affect the outcome for Victor”.

They added: “We were also pleased with the seriousness with which LAS treated the incident and their responses to both their own internal investigation and the external review of their systems and procedures.

“We believe that the level of resilience in an IT system that frequently breaks down is inadequate and should be backed up by an alternative, perhaps less comprehensive, IT system.

“We believe that our sad loss has at least contributed to a greater resilience of the service that LAS provides to Londoners and, possibly, to citizens of other parts of the country.”

The family received an apology from the Metropolitan police after a mix-up in confirming Mr Bede’s identity meant they only learned of his death – by chance from a friend – a week later.

LAS medical director Dr Fenella Wrigley said after the inquest: “We have met Mr Bede’s family and talked through what happened. It was our busiest night of the year and our computer system stopped working due to a technical fault.

“There was also a very confused picture from the scene, with the phone being passed between several people and the description of the patient’s presentation changing.

“We conducted a thorough investigation into what happened and have made a number of changes, including strengthening our IT leadership team and changing processes in the control room so that calls can be handled more effectively when using the manual system.”

  • A report in the Evening Standard incorrectly referred to “safe” levels of crystal meth. Victor’s family have asked us to note that there is no safe level.

Beds crisis at St Mary’s as ageing hospital suffers collapsed floor and ceiling

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St Mary's repairs

ONE of London’s biggest hospitals ran out of beds on 20 occasions in the last six months after a series of disasters with its crumbling buildings.

Highest-level “black alerts” were declared at St Mary’s, in Paddington, after part of the first floor and a ceiling collapsed in the 147-year-old Cambridge wing, resulting in the loss of 31 beds until December.

The problems have also forced the closure of St Mary’s birth centre until mid-November, requiring almost 100 women to date to change plans and give birth either on a labour ward at St Mary’s or at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital in Acton.

St Mary's repairs 2

It comes ahead of a Westminster council planning meeting tonight [Tuesday, 6.30pm] to decide whether to approve the first stage of the hospital’s redevelopment in the face of objections from some neighbours.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust want to build a £162m nine-storey outpatients department on the “triangle” site at the junction of Praed Street and South Wharf Road.

Council planners “fully support” the proposal, saying the hospital’s needs provide “significant justification and public benefit” to outweigh objections about loss of daylight from 69 residents of Westcliffe and Peninsula apartments.

Imperial chief executive Ian Dalton said the trust was already spending £16 million a year across its five hospitals before the problems at Cambridge wing, which will cost £1 million to fix, came to light.

In a board report, he said: “The trust has one of the largest backlog building maintenance programmes in the NHS. With a third of its buildings over 100 years old, St Mary’s has the largest proportion of maintenance issues but all five of our hospital estates have significant problems.”

The problems at St Mary’s, which dates to 1845, have caused major logistical problems in moving patients, equipment and supplies between hospital buildings and were a factor in the trust failing to hit the four-hour A&E target last month.

In addition to the problems on Cambridge wing, a flood on Paterson wing, which houses the surgical innovation unit, forced the wing’s closure for a fortnight and the cancellation of a “small number” of operations. The Jefferiss wing was flooded on a separate occasion.

Escalation areas are opened to create extra beds when possible but the high bed occupancy rate, increased demand – which is expected to escalate with the onset of winter – and increasingly sick patients means treatment targets slip and some operations are delayed.