New bridge proposed in east London for cyclists and pedestrians


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A new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians could be built across the Thames in east London.

Transport for London and local busineses have provided £200,000 to investigate the feasibility of a bridge, which would link the Isle of Dogs and Rotherhithe and provide a new route to Canary Wharf.

The lightweight bridge would be 400m long and open in the middle to allow ships to pass. It is estimated that journey times across the river for cyclists would be halved. Subject to approval and funding, the bridge could open by 2020.
Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity, is due to complete the feasibility study by August. Formal designs have yet to be ratified but Sustrans says it could be similar to the Peace bridge it constructed across the River Foyle in Londonderry.

To see what the Peace bridge looks like, see here:

With the capital’s population predicted to hit 10 million by 2030, the bridge would reduce pressure on the Jubilee line and on roads and make it easier to get around.

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “It could enable millions of sustainable cross-river journeys and make it far easier for people to choose a healthier travel option.

“With high-quality links to destinations either side, it will make walking and cycling a real choice for hundreds of thousands of residents, workers and visitors.”

TfL provided £170,000 with £30,000 coming from business. Isabel Dedring, deputy mayor for transport, said: “More than a third of London’s expected population growth is expected to happen in East London and we urgently need more crossings – for all types of transport users. So we are delighted to be able to offer this funding to help progress Sustrans’ proposed cycling and walking bridge.”

Richard de Cani, TfL’s managing director for planning, said: “A new pedestrian and cycle crossing between the Isle of Dogs and Rotherhithe and Canada Water would encourage more people to walk and cycle to Canary Wharf, improving access to amenities and jobs and providing an alternative to the Jubilee line for shorter trips.” 

Misery for Londoners with hay fever and asthma as capital suffers worst outbreak in country


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Hay fever rate peaks in London (light blue line)

Hay fever rate peaks in London (light blue line)

London has suffered the worst hay fever outbreak in the country for the last two weeks, a study of GPs revealed today.

Rates of asthma were also the highest nationally last week as the soaring heat and pollen count caused misery for sufferers, many of whom suffer from both conditions.

The Royal College of GPs’ weekly respiratory disease report said there were 107.8 cases of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, reported to GPs in London for every 100,000 people.

This was down from the previous week, when a rate of 137.6 was the highest in the country this year, but still well above the national average of 78.4.

Across the country, problems were said to be most acute in children aged five to 14 – where rates were more than double the national average – and people aged 15 to 24.

Asthma levels in London increased from 11.4 to 14.9 per 100,000 over the last two weeks of June, bucking a drop nationwide to an average of 11.5.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Although the analysis from our Research and Surveillance Centre shows that hay fever rates are continuing to rise – and are worse in London than elsewhere in the country – they do seem to be levelling off, so we hope that the worst is over.

“Patients who are suffering from hay fever can be reassured that in most cases anti-histamine medications that are available over the counter at local pharmacists should be effective at relieving symptoms.  

“Patients that suffer from hay fever can also take simple steps to help minimise their exposure to pollen, such as wearing a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses, and to applying Vaseline to nostrils to help trap pollen particles.”

Breathing problems are due to continue over the weekend, with pollen levels “very high” in the capital until Tuesday, according to the Met Office. Temperatures will rise to 28 degrees tomorrow and 25C on Sunday but fall slightly next week, with rain showers forecast for Tuesday.

Public Health England said there had been an increase in calls to the NHS 111 helpline and to out-of-hours GP services for asthma, wheezing and difficulty in breathing for the last week of June, with GP consultations for allergic rhinitis at “elevated levels”.

The figures come after London Ambulance Service declared that Wednesday was its busiest summer day ever, with paramedics attending 1,571 life-threatening incidents including 266 for breathing problems and 286 where the patient was unconscious or fainting.

Smartphone dating apps ‘are fuelling risky chemsex gay orgies’



Online dating apps are fuelling the risky practice of drug-fuelled “chemsex” at gay orgies in London, an investigation claimed today.

Sites such as Grindr, GROWLr and SCRUFF are making it easier for “men who have sex with men” to find sexual partners, amid concern at a rise in sexually transmitted infections in the capital.

A Radio 4 documentary told how drugs such as mephedrone, GHB/GBL and crystal meth were being taken at gay house parties to increase sexual appetite. But because these also lower inhibitions, they can lead users into “unintended unprotected sex”.

One 22-year-old Londoner, Jack, who has been experimenting with drugs for eight years, said: “Sex on crystal is like something else. You f**k like a porn star. It gives you that confidence.”

Another gay man, Kiran, who has used crystal meth, said: “What you would call ‘vanilla’ sex just doesn’t match up to it.”

Jack told the drugs enabled him to party from Friday night until late on Sunday. He only slept after returning from work on Monday. He might attend eight house parties at the weekend and have sex with up to 14 men.

Asked whether he feared contracting HIV, he said: “I have played with fire so much, if it happens, it happens. It isn’t the end of the world these days.”

Some men who indulge in chemsex advertise the fact on the smartphone apps by adding a pill logo to their profile. The move away from pubs and clubs to private house parties has sparked concern by putting users out of reach of sexual health and drug advice services.

Dave Stuart, of the Club Drug Clinic at 56 Dean Street, said: “These three particular drugs we are talking about are very powerful sexual disinhibitors for a population of people who need some disinhibition around their sex.”

Figures released last week by Public Health England revealed that sexual infections in London increased by five per cent to 113,381 cases. Among young Londoners, gonorrhoea was up 20 per cent to 4,341 cases. Gay men accounted for two-thirds of these cases and 90 per cent of syphillis cases among the same 15-24 age group.

HIV infections are also rising, with concern that the availability of anti-retroviral drugs such as Truvada encourages “bareback” (unprotected) sex. One in eight gay men in London is thought to have HIV.

* The Report is on BBC Radio 4 from 8pm to 830pm.

Pregnant woman ‘would probably have survived’ if she had been taken to A&E rather than maternity hospital 10 miles away


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A pregnant woman and her baby died after paramedics took her to a hospital 10 miles away rather than the nearest A&E.

Estherline Caulker, 39, was stuck in rush-hour traffic for 84 minutes after the London Ambulance crew failed to realise she was suffering from internal bleeding after being taken ill at a train station.

Estherline Caulker: "She would have made the best mother in the world"

Estherline Caulker: “She would have made the best mother in the world”

It was the first in a series of failings that saw her go into cardiac arrest and die in hospital from an internal haemorrhage early the following morning. Her premature daughter was delivered by emergency caesarean but died two months later.

Ms Caulker’s death was the fifth maternal death in 18 months involving the Homerton hospital. It has led to whole-scale changes in procedure at the hospital, in Hackney, and across the London Ambulance Service.

Coroner Mary Hassell said Ms Caulker “would probably have survived” had she been taken on sirens and blue lights to a closer emergency unit and received better care.

Her father, Starlingford Caulker, 66, told of a “loving” daughter who had suffered four miscarriages and desperately longed for a child.

He told the Standard: “She always wanted to have a child. That was her greatest dream. And she would have made the best mother in the world.

“We are all absolutely devastated. She was a wonderful daughter. I can’t even bear to look at pictures of her. If I do, it’s like my heart is breaking.

“We will have a meeting as a family and consider taking legal action. But justice can never be done because nothing can bring her back.”

Poplar coroner’s court was told that fast-response paramedic Alex Boda correctly suspected “significant bleeding” when he arrived at Kensal Rise station at 5.41pm on January 16. He called for an ambulance to take Ms Caulker, who was 26 weeks’ pregnant, to hospital, believing her condition was potentially life-threatening.

But rather than rushing her to St Mary’s in Paddington or the Royal Free in Hampstead – 10-minute emergency journeys – the crew took her as a non-urgent case to the Homerton, where she was receiving antenatal care. They did this “in line with her wishes” and after believing she had stabilised. She arrived at 8.07pm and was not seen by a doctor for two hours after a breakdown in communication between midwives.

Paramedic Paul Quarterton said: “General practice is to take ladies to their booked maternity unit. At the time, I believed we were making the best decision for the patient.”

Asked by the coroner if he had failed to appreciate it was a medical emergency, Mr Quarterton replied: “Yes.” He added: “I didn’t appreciate at the time the nature of the urgency. If I had, I would have been more forceful with the patient about where we were going to go.”

Yashwant Koak, a consultant general surgeon who tried to save her life, said she would have had a 75 per cent chance of survival if she had been taken to A&E as scans would probably have picked up the bleeding from her splenetic artery. “If it’s recognised within the ‘golden hour’, the outcome is a lot different,” he said.

“By the time the patient came to Homerton, it was likely to have dropped down to 50 per cent. At the time of the crash call [when she went into cardiac arrest], it would have been less than five per cent.”

Ms Caulker, from Hackney, a sales manager at Ladbrokes, weighed almost 20st and was classed as morbidly obese. Pathologist Ula Mahadeva said obesity was a “recognised risk factor” for maternal death and “have made the diagnosis and resuscitation more difficult”.

Ms Hassell praised the “bravery” of junior doctor Harry Gibson, who led the initial attempt to save Ms Caulker’s life while also performing an emergency caesarean on a mother in the next room when her child’s heartbeat plummeted.

She said: “Everybody who looked after Ms Caulker had to go to work the following day. Some had to go from her devastating situation literally moments later to another devastating situation of potentially life-threatening circumstances.

“That must have been a very difficult thing to do, particularly when one recognises that one has not dealt with the situation in the way that one would like, it does take quite a degree of bravery to go into that situation and do one’s best.”

Dr Gibson, an obstetric registrar, apologised to Ms Caulker’s family, some of whom were in tears as they heard evidence. “I look back on it and I wish I had done hundreds of things,” he said. “I would like to say how sincerely sorry I am for everything that has happened.”

Ms Hassell said: “What I have heard, and wholeheartedly accept, is at the very outset there was an opportunity to treat Ms Caulker. That probably would have been effective. As time went on, that opportunity got smaller and smaller. By the time she was given CPR, it was next to nothing.

“Undoubtedly Miss Caulker died from natural causes but there were opportunities in her care to recognise how ill she was. These opportunities were not seized.”

The inquest heard that triage midwife Natalie Allen put a post-it note on Ms Caulker’s file marked “urgent”. But obstetric assessment unit midwife Tayo Olofowobi admitted she had failed to treat it as a priority and gave up trying to find a doctor because the department was “busy”.

Hospital staff ignored the reports from paramedics detailing her low blood pressure and it took two hours before Ms Caulker was seen by a doctor.

In a narrative verdict, the coroner said the ambulance crew had been “falsely reassured” about her condition.

Ms Hassell said: “This was a life-threatening medical emergency and should have prompted an immediate blue-light transfer to the nearest appropriate emergency unit, regardless of any later improvement.

“There was a failure of fully effective communication between health professionals at every stage in Ms Caulker’s care on the evening of the 16th and the early morning of January 17, between solo paramedic and ambulance paramedics; ambulance paramedics and triage midwife; triage midwife and midwife with care; midwife with care and obstetric registrar.

“If blue light transfer to an emergency unit with maternity support had been effected from the railway station where she was taken ill, then, following diagnosis of a collection of blood via a FAST scan and immediate surgery, she would probably have survived. By the time she reached the Homerton Hospital Maternity Unit, treatment was unlikely to change the outcome.”

No ambulance for cyclist who suffered broken leg in canal bike-jacking


A cyclist whose leg was broken in a brutal bike-jacking by three masked robbers was refused an ambulance and forced to make his own way to hospital by Uber minicab.

Paul Mullan, 32, dialled 999 in agony as he lay face down on the towpath beside the River Lea near Tottenham Hale after being attacked as he rode home.

But, in the latest controversy to hit the London Ambulance Service, he was told to hang-up and redial the NHS 111 non-emergency helpline because his injury “wasn’t serious enough”. He was eventually rescued by three police officers who carried him to their patrol car and drove him home.

Mr Mullan, an IT project manager from Walthamstow, told me in an exclusive interview from his hospital bed that he felt “let down” by the ambulance service.

The incident happened a day after no ambulance was sent to heavily pregnant Malorie Bantala, 21, who was so brutally attacked in Peckham that she lost her baby.

Mr Mullan said: “I don’t know why they couldn’t send an ambulance patrol car or whatever doctor they had around. That is the most disappointing thing.

“At the time I was incredulous. I’m always a defender of the NHS but I want to know why they didn’t listen to my call properly. They said, ‘Describe what is wrong with you’. I’m laying flat on my face. I have been hauled off my bike. I can’t move. I remember being short of breath and getting frustrated with them. I knew my leg was gone.”

Last year the ambulance service faced criticism after several cyclists were left lying injured in the road for hours. Emergency response times plummeted to the slowest in the country and chief executive Ann Radmore quit in January after concerns were raised at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Dr Fenella Wrigley, London Ambulance Service acting medical director, said: “From the information provided to us, the patient was conscious, breathing and alert and did not have any immediately life threatening injuries.

“We will now contact the patient and work with him to review this case; we are sorry if we have contributed to was what already a very distressing experience.”
Mr Mullan was helped by two passing joggers and a group of teenagers. He was full of praise for the help he received from the police. One officer rode his £300 bike home after it was found abandoned nearby.

After advice from a surgeon friend in his Northern Ireland home town, Mr Mullan and girlfriend Yuriko Taya booked a minicab via the Uber app to take them to A&E.

He was admitted with a fractured tibia – his shinbone – and is awaiting surgery.

The incident, around 9pm on Tuesday near Markfield Park, is believed to have been caught on camera by a passer-by. Police today appealed for witnesses as they issued descriptions of the attackers.

“The biggest one started running and pulled the handlebars,” Mr Mullan recalled. “I went sideways really quickly. I fell down. I was screaming in agony. I went to get up and grab the bike and they kicked me down again.”

The incident is the latest in a series of bike-jackings in and around Walthamstow marshes. Mr Mullan, who works in the West End, had previously had surgery on the same leg, involving the insertion of two surgical screws, after a serious football injury.

He said: “If I’m a target, then anyone can be a target, any time of day or night. Unfortunately my only alternative is to go down Seven Sisters Road. Five people have been killed or injured this year on my route to work. My girlfriend won’t let me back on a bike. I’m beginning to think that is good advice. She didn’t want me to cycle home that evening.”

The attackers were described as a tall black man aged 18 to 20 wearing a burgundy bandana over his face, another black man of the same age with Afro-style hair who was wearing a black jacket and a short black youth aged around 16 of Somali appearance wearing a black bomber jacket and blue jeans.

Detective Sergeant Gareth Coffey, of Haringey CID, said: “This was a violent attack on an innocent man and it has left him badly injured. I am sure these three youths will have been seen and will probably be known to people.”

* Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Quote 2813883/15.

Trainee doctor saved by air ambulance after cycle crash: we need a second emergency helicopter for London


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An intensive care doctor has spoken of the “paramount importance” of a second emergency helicopter for London as she told how the capital’s only air ambulance saved her life when she was knocked off her bike.

Dr Chloe Baker, 29, knew she was critically injured and in desperate need of urgent medical attention when she was run over by a lorry in East Sheen as she rode to medical school.

“I was aware that I was bleeding internally and that one of my lungs had punctured,” she said. “The bleeding, I was very conscious, is a time-critical problem. I knew that the only way of solving it was by going to an operating theatre. It was frightening. I knew I didn’t have much time.”

A doctor and paramedic from London’s Air Ambulance were quickly on the scene. They put her to sleep, inserted a breathing tube and performed a chest drain to enable her to breathe. She was then flown to the Royal London hospital, in Whitechapel – where she now works as a trainee anaesthetist – for emergency surgery.

Dr Baker told me: “The air ambulance saved my life. I was critically unwell at the roadside and was told later on that I probably wouldn’t have survived [road] ambulance transfer to the nearest hospital.

“I was lucky enough to be run over on a day where the air ambulance was functioning. It’s of paramount importance for all Londoners for there always to be an air ambulance available for these time-critical patients such as myself.”

The charity that runs London’s Air Ambulance needs £4.4 million for a second helicopter to enable its crews to fly longer each day and to ensure there is never a time without air cover, which happened on 55 days last year. A second aircraft would enable it to reach an extra 400 critically ill patients a year.

Dr Baker, who now lives in London Bridge, has recovered fully from the collision in 2007 and was able to join NHS medics fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone over Christmas. She ran the London Marathon to raise funds for the air ambulance and hopes to eventually join its team of trauma specialists.

The collision happened when she “foolishly” tried to undertake stationary traffic and the lorry suddenly turned left over her onto a pavement.

“I remember shouting and perhaps swearing and trying to get my myself and my bike on to the footpath away from [the lorry],” she recalled.

“The next thing I remember, I was lying on my back with a wheel across my abdomen and my hands on it, trying to push it off my tummy, and still somehow managing to croak a shout at the lorry driver to stop. I was dragged some distance. I was left looking at the sky wondering how I was going to get up.”

She spent 10 days in the Royal London and two weeks in a hospital nearer to home. She suffered an “uncountable number of fractured ribs”, a collapsed lung, a lacerated artery to her spleen and had her pancreas cut in two.

“I’m lucky to be alive because of the air ambulance,” she said. “I’m lucky to have the quality of life and the full recovery I’ve got thanks to the Royal London.”

* To donate £5 to the appeal for a second helicopter, text HELICOPTER  to 70800.

* An edited version of this story appears in today’s Evening Standard.

Closure of Ealing hospital maternity unit wil mean longer journeys for women in labour


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Women in labour face journeys of more than an hour to get to hospital as a result of the closure of a London maternity unit, health chiefs admitted today [Wednesday May 20].

GPs in Ealing were this afternoon expected to agree to shut Ealing hospital’s maternity department from July 1, with pregnant women redirected to six “super hospitals”.

A transport study analysing the effect on mothers-to-be found average car journeys to hospital would increase from 21 to 30 minutes, those by public transport from 33 to 51 minutes and emergency cases taken by ambulance from 11 to 13 minutes.

But the longest car journey would increase from 45 to 61 minutes while those using public transport from 76 to 89 minutes. One in six women using public transport would take an hour or more to get to hospital. Ambulances – required by more than 500 Ealing women a year – would take no more than 30 minutes.

Health bosses want to axe maternity services at Ealing – which handles about 2,400 deliveries a year – because it will be unable to meet new safety standards on consultant cover, placing it at “strong risk” of unplanned closure.

They say that having obstetricians and midwives on fewer sites – such as Queen Charlotte’s, Northwick Park and Hillingdon – will improve 24/7 care. This is needed because of an increase in complex or “risky” pregnancies. The move is part of the controversial Shaping a Healthier Future plan that has seen two A&Es closed and two more under threat.

But anti-closure campaigner Eve Turner said: “They have no interest in Ealing mums, especially the poorest and most deprived living in Greenford and Southall who will have to travel outside the area for appointments and to have their babies.
“There are no guarantees that the excellent 1-1 support given by Ealing midwives will be available and all the knowledge and experience of working with our different communities will be lost.”

The London Clinical Senate, an independent body of expert clinicians, said the loss of staff and fall in the number of women booking to have their baby at Ealing since the plans were agreed in principole in 2013 made the case for change “of even greater importance”.

*UPDATE: Following the meeting, this press release was issued by the NHS North West London Collaboration of CCGs:

Improvements to maternity services in North West London will be introduced from 1 July 2015.

The changes will improve healthcare for women across North West London by increasing midwife-to-birth ratios, providing more senior consultant cover in maternity units and moving towards 24/7 consultant cover on the labour ward, and greater investment in home birth teams.

As part of the changes, Ealing Hospital’s maternity unit will close and its services will be consolidated onto six hospital sites – all of which will have their facilities upgraded – across North West London as well as being delivered through more midwifery-led care in the community.

Most women from the borough of Ealing who choose to give birth at Hillingdon, West Middlesex, Northwick Park, Queen Charlotte’s and St Mary’s hospitals will still be able to have the majority of their antenatal and postnatal appointments at Ealing Hospital, if they wish.

Paediatric services will remain unchanged at Ealing Hospital, although there will be improvements to these services over the next 12 months with the introduction of a new Paediatric Rapid Access Clinic and seven-day consultant cover.

The date for the transition of maternity services was confirmed at a meeting of Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body on 20 May 2015.

Dr Mohini Parmar, Ealing GP and Chair of NHS Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Midwives and clinicians are clear that these changes will help improve healthcare for women across North West London by providing more consultant-led care and more midwives in our local communities.

“What’s more, many women from the borough of Ealing will still be able to have the majority of their antenatal and postnatal care at Ealing Hospital, if they wish.

“The clinical advice from independent bodies like the London Clinical Senate has always been to implement these changes as soon as possible in order to ensure we meet the changing – and improved – quality standards for maternity units in London.

“After much work, we now have the additional staffing, beds and facilities in our other hospitals in order to make this transition.”

The changes were first proposed by healthcare professionals across North West London in 2013 as part of the “Shaping a Healthier Future” programme.

These plans were subject to public consultation and review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), a group of national healthcare experts. The IRP supported the proposals and the Secretary of State subsequently committed the programme to proceeding.

The London Clinical Senate, an independent body of expert clinicians which provides strategic advice to improve quality of care and experience for patients, recently endorsed the clear need for these changes to maternity services to occur as soon as it is safe to do so and no later than June 2015.

Ealing Hospital maternity unit is currently a safe place for women to give birth. However, quality standards for maternity units are changing and in future Ealing Hospital would be unable to meet this new standard.

Dr Parmar continued: “We will be contacting all women who are currently booked to give birth at Ealing Hospital to discuss whether they are affected by the closure date or not, and what their options are.

“We also continue to work with midwives at Ealing Hospital to help support them in making this transition.”

Women in labour diverted to hospitals miles away after ‘unprecedented’ shortage of maternity beds


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An “unprecedented” shortage of maternity beds in London meant women in labour had to be transferred to hospitals up to 10 miles away to give birth.

Four of the capital’s busiest maternity departments had to impose emergency closures – with one unable to take any new cases for 45 hours throughout a chaotic weekend.

Sources said the situation sent alarm bells ringing at NHS England’s London region as it came as health chiefs were in the process of axing a unit that handles 2,400 births a year.

The temporary diversions were imposed over the weekend of May 16/17 at St George’s, in Tooting, the Royal London, in Whitechapel, and Newham and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals.

Two of the three women turned away from Chelsea and Westminster had to be transferred to Ealing hospital – which four days later was told it would lose its maternity services from July 1.

See here for full details of the decision to axe maternity services at Ealing hospital.

St George’s, a specialist centre for complicated pregnancies, was the worst affected, with eight women having to be diverted, with some believed to have been sent to Croydon hospital.

A St George’s spokeswoman said: ”Our maternity was placed on divert for approximately 45 hours over the weekend of May 16/17. The unit was fully staffed but faced an unprecedented increase in admission demand.

“Decisions like this are always difficult to make, as we do not want to cause concerns for women who have chosen to birth their babies at St George’s, but then find this is not possible. However, safety and quality of care must always be paramount.”

Women arriving at the Royal London were assessed and diverted to the Homerton, in Hackney, while those at Newham were sent 10 miles away to Queen’s hospital in Romford.

A spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London and Newham, said a “small number” of women were diverted due to “high patient numbers”. Diverts were in place last weekend [23/24] at another of its hospitals, Whipps Cross.

He said: “As the maternity service is continually responding to high levels of patient activity, it is not unusual to implement a temporary divert.”

A Chelsea and Westminster hospital spokesman said it closed “for a few hours” on the Saturday afternoon.

He said: “The reason was an unusual spike in the numbers of women who came in to give birth – a significant proportion of whom with quite complex medical conditions.

“On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we had a total of 61 deliveries (when the average number for three days would be nearer 40). This is a rare event and we apologise to the women we had to send elsewhere.”

The Care Quality Commission watchdog last Friday declared both the Royal London and Newham to be “inadequate” and warned they needed more obstetric consultants and midwives.

The Royal London, which handles 4,350 births a year, knew of a “risk” in its maternity capacity nine months ago. However, a new midwife-led unit was delayed, women awaiting discharge were often two to a room – despite the potential infection risks – and some waiting to be induced were often sent to another hospital.

At Newham, which handles 6,800 births a year, consultants were present just 74 hours a week – well short of the 168-hour target, the CQC found.

NHS England (London) said “disruption” to women in labour would reduce as hospitals began to meet new standards increasing the number of midwives and obstetricians.

A spokeswoman said: “Across the capital, maternity units work together as part of a network to ensure a safe number of midwives can provide good care to expectant mothers.

“The nature of childbirth means we have days when some units become exceptionally busy, so London’s maternity units may need to divert women to neighbouring organisations. The number of women who do not deliver at the unit they are booked into is extremely small.”

A spokeswoman for Shaping a Healthier Future, the programme behind the Ealing closure, said: “The changes in north west London… will improve care for women by investing in new maternity beds, midwifery led units, more consultant obstetrician hours on labour ward and more midwives, so we are confident that fewer women will have to go to an unfamiliar unit in the future.”

Risk of baby abduction revealed in one of worst NHS watchdog reports ever published



Britain’s biggest NHS trust was today shamed as “inadequate” as it received some of the worst criticism ever levelled by the NHS watchdog.

Barts Health, which runs five east London hospitals including the £650 million Royal London in Whitechapel, was ordered to make an unprecedented 65 immediate improvements by the Care Quality Commission.

It was castigated for having “not enough doctors and midwives to deliver safe care” to women in labour, “significant risks” due to a lack of paediatric nurses, and security failings that created a risk of newborn babies being abducted.

A shortage of beds at the Royal London – the biggest stand-alone hospital in Europe, with 671 beds on 31 wards – meant operations were repeatedly cancelled and patients were shuffled between wards for non-medical reasons.

A “them and us” culture exists between a “very committed” workforce and the trust board, while a “culture of blame” and bullying meant some staff were afraid to speak to CQC inspectors.

The trust, which posted a £79.6 million debt in the last financial year, was placed in special measures by the Trust Development Authority in March after the CQC found Whipps Cross hospital, in Leytonstone, to be inadequate.

The CQC’s concerns led it to investigate the flagship Royal London – rebuilt under a controversial private finance initiative (PFI) deal three years ago – and Newham.

It found these too to be inadequate, with only the major trauma unit at the Royal London – which saves twice as many patients as the national average – and the trust’s stroke services among the few services attracting praise.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said “too little attention was paid to safety” across the trust. There were nine “never events” – medical blunders so bad they should never occur – in 14 months, including eight cases of surgery in the wrong area and 1,253 serious incidents.

Sir Mike said: “Barts Health NHS Trust is the largest NHS trust in England, serving a population of well over two million people, and home to some world-renowned specialities. So it is all the more disappointing to report the extent and level of our concerns in all three hospitals, particularly in safety and leadership.

“It is clear that the leadership issues we found at Whipps Cross were replicated at the other hospitals. It is three years since the merger which formed the trust – but there is still a lack of engagement with the staff, low morale, high levels of stress, even confusion among the workforce about who is in charge.”

The report, based on inspections in January followed by unannounced visits, could increase pressure to break up the trust. Its chief executive, chairman, chief nurse and finance director have all quit in the past months.

One patient told the CQC that it was so difficult to contact staff at Whipps Cross that he had to visit the hospital in person after making 79 phone calls without success.

Another patient had their surgery cancelled five times – but the head of surgery, head of cancer, hospital director and head matron were all unaware.

Security tags had not been fitted to the ankles of newborn babies for six months because of a series of false alarms, despite the high number of unknown visitors to the Royal London’s maternity unit. Two of the floors at the Royal London remain mothballed because of a lack of cash, but there are plans to use one floor for private patients to reduce the trust’s deficit.

Royal College of Nursing London Operational Manager Sue Tarr said: “Barts Health has faced a series of problems over recent years, driven in part by an unsustainable PFI debt. However the decision in 2013 to try to save money by cutting and down banding hundreds of nursing posts has proved disastrous. Barts now has the biggest deficit and the biggest agency nursing bill of any trust in England.

“The CQC suggests that staffing shortages went further than those reported at board level. The trust urgently needs a realistic and sustainable plan to get enough nursing staff in post to safely deliver the care needed by the millions of East Londoners who rely on Barts for their healthcare needs.”

Steve Ryan, the Barts Health NHS Trust Chief Medical Officer, said: “These CQC reports describe some services that fall short of what we aspire to. We are very sorry for the failings identified by the CQC in some of our services at Newham and The Royal London hospitals. We know we have a big challenge ahead but we are determined to rise to that challenge.

“We are already making rapid and dramatic improvements in key areas. We welcome the targeted help the special measures regime provides. We firmly believe in Barts Health as an organisation and we recognise the need for improvement.”

How rogue HGV driver destroyed many lives: devastating victim impact statement of cyclist’s widow



The widow of a cyclist killed instantly after being run over by a rogue driver’s tipper truck has told in heartbreaking detail how she was torn apart by the trauma of his death.

Deputy head teacher Penny Johnson wrote emails to Alan Neve telling him she loved him – and sent replies from his email account to her own – slept with his pyjamas and looked in vain for him on the Tube and as she drove around London.

Alan Neve: "In every way the finest and most decent of men", said Judge Daniel Worsley

Alan Neve: “In every way the finest and most decent of men”, said Judge Daniel Worsley

“My live used to be vividly and richly coloured,” she said. “Now it’s black and white. “It’s hard to accept that such a gentle, kind, sensitive man had such a horrible death.”

Penny Johnson 1

Penny Johnson 2

Tipper truck driver Barry Meyer, 53, of Walthamstow, was last week [Thursday 14] jailed for three-and-a-half years and banned from driving for 10 years after admitting causing the death by careless driving of Mr Neve, 55, a music industry auditor from Poplar.

Barry Meyer: had a "wretched disregard" for the rules of the road

Barry Meyer: had a “wretched disregard” for the rules of the road

Judge Daniel Worsley said Meyer, who had previously been banned from the road five times and was driving without a HGV licence and insurance at the time of the morning rush-hour collision at Holborn on July 15, 2013, had a “wretched disregard for the safety of road users”.

In a victim statement to Blackfriars Crown Court, read by prosecutor Allison Hunter, Ms Johnson said she had suffered “traumatic” loss as Mr Neve’s death came without warning.

She said: “I could not fully comprehend that Alan was not still here. I had not said goodbye. He was there and then he wasn’t.

“When the police told me that Alan had been taken to St Pancras mortuary, I remember thinking he would be cold and that I should take him some warm clothes and a blanket.”

They met in 1984 when she was 21 and he was 26. They became a couple in 2000 and married in 2008. She became step-mother to Mr Neve’s teenage daughter Matilda.

“I loved Alan with all my heart and he made me happier than anyone else in the world,” she said.

“I felt like the luckiest woman in the world to have him as my husband. It’s impossible to fully convey how Alan’s death has affected me.

“I so very much want the life back that I had, rather than the one I am living now. I long for Alan constantly.

“Matilda has said: ‘I think about dad every day and miss him deeply. I thought of him as a best friend as well as a father. He was truly an inspiration.’”

Penny Johnson 3

Penny Johnson 4

Judge Worsley told Meyer the harm he caused to to Mr Neve’s family and to Alexander Smith, a lorry driver who had tried to help Mr Neve, was “devastating beyond all measure”.

Mr Neve was wearing a cycle helmet but died from massive head injuries when the lorry’s front and rear wheels ran over his head. Mr Smith was so traumatised that he had a mental breakdown, lost his job and his marriage almost fell apart, the court was told.

Neil Corre, defending, said Meyer had never served a prison sentence despite his series of bans, some of which were flouted. He said there was a “very limited opportunity” for Meyer – who had driven through a red light – to spot Mr Neve as he weaved through traffic.

Despite the fact that it was Mr Neve’s right of way, Mr Corre said: “It has to be said with sadness that Mr Neve put himself in a position of danger by riding into the closing gap between Mr Neve’s vehicle and the vehicle driven by [a colleague].


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