Vehicles to be banned from Bank junction in bid to improve safety after death of cyclist in horror HGV crash

Tags

, ,

Lorries, cars and taxis are set to be banned during the day from one of London’s most notorious junctions to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

The City of London Corporation today recommended plans to press ahead with an 18-month trial at Bank from next April following the death of Oxbridge graduate Ying Tao, 26, (below), who was hit by a turning HGV as she cycled to work.

ying-tao

The coroner inquiring into Ms Tao’s death in June 2015 declined to impose a prevention of future deaths order on transport chiefs at the conclusion of her inquest in July because he was aware of the City Corporation’s plans.

Lawyers for Ms Tao’s widower, Jin Chuan Zhou, asked City of London police to reconsider its decision not to prosecute driver Lee Williams. The inquest was told that an audible warning system and one of two side sensors on the 32-tonne truck were broken.

Proposals being put before Corporation members this month would allow only buses and cyclists to use the six-arm junction between 7am-7pm on weekdays. Drivers who ignore the ban would have their numberplate read by roadside camera and be sent a £130 penalty ticket.

City experts predict that the move could cut casualties by 50-60 per cent. A total of 34 cyclists and 31 pedestrians were injured at the junction between 7am-7pm between 2011 to 2015.

Traffic speeds in the area bounded by London Wall, Bishopsgate, Cannon Street and New Change/St Martin le Grande is predicted to be “neutral” or “slightly positive”.

This is because Bank junction is regarded as “extremely inefficient”, with each arm of traffic getting only 96 seconds of “green light” time, leading to lengthy tailbacks.

The City Corporation first proposed the ban a year ago and has been consulting Transport for London and taxi drivers, who wanted to be able to continue to use the junction.

Modelling showed that if taxis were exempted, improvements to 23 the 25 bus routes in the area would be lost and there would be “unaceptable” additional delays to all traffic on Bishopsgate.

The London Cab Ranks Committee wants the City Corporation to conduct a poll of taxi passengers before implementing the trial.

A final decision is expected from the City’s policy and resources committee on December 15.

A City Corporation spokesman said: “Our number one priority is to improve safety and reduce casualties at Bank junction which is why we are proposing this experimental safety scheme.

“Proposing to restrict motor traffic, including taxis, during weekdays at Bank is one we have therefore taken after careful consideration.

“If approved, the experiment could start in April next year. This will be monitored closely with formal public consultation taking place next year. A final decision on whether the scheme is to remain is likely to be taken between 12 and 18 months after the experiment starts.”

The spokesman added: “We will however look to increase the number of taxi ranks in the vicinity of Bank junction so that passengers can still easily hire a taxi.”

2,600 Londoners a week get no emergency response as LAS focuses on patients in greatest medical need

Tags

LAS ambulance 2015

Paramedics are not being sent to thousands of 999 calls as London Ambulance Service struggles to cope with a record number of emergencies.

The service today revealed that crews were not being dispatched to about 2,400 patients a week to enable it to target resources on the most seriously ill.

In addition, crews are no longer being routinely sent to police incidents. Instead, officers on the scene are asked if medical back-up is required – saving an ambulance in about half of cases.

The LAS attended 11,322 “category A” incidents such as cardiac arrests and stabbings between November 14-20, the most in its history and 15 per cent more than the same time last year.

Only 66.4 per cent of crews arrived within eight minutes – the NHS target is 70 per cent. This was fractionally better than last year but lower than bosses expected.

Overtime costs are 50 per cent over budget and a recruitment freeze has been imposed for non-operational staff. Private and voluntary ambulance services are being used for 1,000 hours of shifts a week.

Bosses fear demand will soar further into winter. Last month it used “surge purple enhanced” rationing measures on three occasions to handle the crisis, ensuring help was sent to the sickest patients first.

This meant that others, such as elderly people feared injured in a fall, typically wait more than an hour for help. Patients judged not seriously ill enough for an emergency response are told to dial the NHS 111 helpline or given advice over the phone by a paramedic.

LAS director of operations Paul Woodrow said: “So far this year we have attended nearly 1,500 category A incidents every day and an average number of 3,200 incidents overall.

“To help us cope with this unprecedented demand we’ve recruited hundreds more frontline staff and have dozens more ambulance crews treating patients across London – every day.”

The BBC today revealed that crews across the country wasted more than half a milion hours in 2015/16 stuck outside A&Es unable to offload patients. In London, the LAS said it was working with hospitals to minimise delays before crews were able to respond to the next call.

Mr Woodrow said: “We will continue to prioritise our ambulance crews so we get to the most seriously ill or injured patients first.

“Londoners with less serious injuries and illnesses can further help us this winter by calling NHS 111, visiting their GP or pharmacist, or alternatively making their own way to hospital.”

Theft of Christmas toys from children’s hospital ward sparks incredible response from generous Londoners

Tags

,

st-marys-theft-splash

A children’s hospital charity was today “overwhelmed” by the incredible generosity of Londoners who rushed to help after thieves stole £3,000 of presents for critically ill young patients.

More than £24,000 was raised – include a donation of £3,000 – in less than 24 hours after the Evening Standard yesterday revealed the theft of the gifts and decorations, including a Santa suit, from the paediatric intensive care unit at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington.

nigel-flanagan-las-paramedic

LAS paramedic Nigel Flanagan will deliver 100 gifts to St Mary’s next week

Further good news came when London Ambulance Service paramedic Nigel Flanagan said he would be delivering 100 presents to the unit next week to replace those taken.

Many people donating to a crowdfunded appeal set up by the Cosmic charity – Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care – said they had been compelled to act after being distraught to read of the crime. More than 150 boxed gifts, including baby-walkers and cot decorations, were taken from an unused ward between October 3 and November 17. They were to have been used at a carol concert on Monday and a party on December 11.

Cosmic spokeswoman Vicky Rees told the Standard: “We’ve had an amazing response. It’s been brilliant. It just keeps going up. We’ve been completely shocked with the response we have had.

“We always expected there were some kind people out there but it’s been overwhelming. We’ve had people calling in and the [hospital] staff have been rallying behind us. It means we can do even more at Christmas for the children.”

Mr Flanagan, 40, a LAS paramedic for 13 years, organises an annual Christmas collection from colleagues and their family and friends. Last year he distributed 700 Christmas gifts from 16 ambulance stations.

He said he felt “so sad” when he read about the theft and felt compelled to help. “I couldn’t believe it,” he told the Standard. “I have not done that hospital before but it needs to be done, especially with all the presents taken from it. It would be nice to make that wrong right and try to help them out, so children can open presents on that day.”

Mr Flanagan, from Catford, recently moved from Oval to South Croydon ambulance station. “I have been doing this work for five years,” he said.

“I have asked staff and their friends and family to donate presents at this time of year. These presents we then deliver to local hospitals, special needs schools, hospices and social services. They all get a box of Christmas presents. After reading your news yesterday, I have got ambulance stations all dotted around London that have collection boxes and a member of staff working as an ‘elf’.

“I don’t have one near St Mary’s but we are going to get a box and make it up for them and deliver it next week. Hopefully that will go some way to putting smiles back on some children’s faces. I couldn’t believe that someone would take presents from children in a hospital.”

* http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=COSMICCharity_Christmas_Appeal

Lorry driver in cyclist death case charged with failing to stop (but not causing death by careless driving)

Tags

,

magda-tadic

Cyclist Magda Tadic: a “lovely happy person”

A lorry driver has been charged with failing to stop after a crash that caused the death of a young woman cyclist.

Darren Anderton, 48, will appear in court next month accused of fleeing the scene of a collision that killed 25-year-old cafe worker Magda Tadic in Croydon on May 23.

Ms Tadic, who was Polish and a former student at South Thames College, died at the scene, near The Windmill pub on St James’s Road, from multiple injuries.

She was living in Streatham and working at Caffe Nero. The firm said she was a “very popular and well respected colleague”. Friends described her as a “lovely happy person”.

See here for an Evening Standard report from the time of the collision.

Anderton was initially arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and failing to stop. Prosecutors decided only to charge him on Tuesday with the latter allegation.
He will appear at Croydon magistrates’ court on December 20.

Ms Tadic was the second of eight Londoners killed cycling this year, seven of them in road collisions. Her death is one of three involving HGVs.

How to get NHS good news stories into the papers

Today I was invited to speak at a conference for NHS PR people. The brief was to talk about what it is like to deal with the NHS from a journalist’s perspective. Here’s a summary of what I said:

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak. In the spirit of NHS cost-saving, I did offer to appear in return for a packet of Tunnock’s teacakes, but I’m told that NHS England (London)’s budget didn’t even extend to that.

FIRST SLIDE: here’s one I made earlier (not today, you’ll be relieved to hear.) it’s a story that could now be written on any day of the year.

In next 10 minutes, I’ll give you:

* a recent example of what happens when I asked several trusts for help.

* An indication of who and what gets written about in the Evening Standard.

* And I’ll try to convince you that our unusal deadlines are an opportunity rather than a problem.

Before I start, and to make sure I make it out of the door alive, I’d like to take you to the approach of a former Evening Standard deputy editor. After he called you into his office for what was known by reporters as a “fireside chat” – namely, a telling off  – he’d preface his remarks by saying: “Now, we’re all working very hard.”

So, in recognition that “we’re all working very hard” and that I’m sure that keeping the Evening Standard happy is not often your top priority, I’ll tell you about an unusual thing that happened last week.

I got a usable press release from the Department of Health.

Now, before Georgie chases me all the way back to Walthamstow, I should just say that many of its releases are newsworthy – but unfortunately unusable because they’re timed to suit the nationals rather than our deadlines. I’ll talk more about our deadlines and the problem – or opportunity – they present later.

The press release was about the latest round of funding for clinical research. Eight London trusts were to share £40 million. It was embargoed until 9am on Friday.

What it didn’t contain was any detail of the exciting new projects the money would fund, so just before 11am last Thursday morning I decided to get in touch with the four trusts receiving the larger grants. I called and then emailed through a summary of the release.

This is what happened.

by 1136, Moorfields said: “I’m in touch with our director of research – happy to see if we can arrange a phone call for you. Let me know if you need anything else.” The phone interview happened at 1.45pm and gave me several great examples.

By 1pm, Guy’s and St Thomas’s called back to mention the boost the cash would give to its work preventing the rejection of transplanted organs. A press release including a patient case study arrived at 2.15pm.

At 220pm I filed the story.

At 330pm I got on my bike and cycled home. I should say that I start at 730am, in case you think I was sloping off early.

At 4pm, Imperial emailed to mention its research on vaccines for ebola, malaria and HIV, a study that tested the use of magic mushrooms on people suffering from depression, and various IVF studies. The press officer added a link: http://imperial.crf.nihr.ac.uk/

At 6.12pm UCLH responded: “I’m sorry this took so long but we’ve been hard pressed with the ministerial visit this morning and all the people who could actually answer the question were on the visit.”

At 632pm, unprompted, GOSH sent me a release: “Great Ormond Street Hospital wins £3 million extra funding for its Somers Clinical Research Facility centre.”

This is what the story looked like on Friday morning:

It’s for you to judge which teams got it right and which, if any, got it wrong last Thursday. From my perspective, I guess it’s fair to say I was a bit disappointed with Imperial and UCLH. Being sent a web link of previous work is a bit insulting. I know how to use Google. As for UCLH, I’ve been well-disposed to it for some time, particularly so as my daughter was born there. My frustration increased further on Friday evening when I watched the BBC London coverage of the story, which had been filmed at UCLH!

UPDATE November 29: UCLH has since told me that it was asked/required by the Department of Health to organise the ministerial visit and had no involvement in who was invited (the Standard wasn’t invited by the Department of Health, or even alerted to the visit taking place). It said that because of this, it felt unable to discuss the fact the visit was taking place.

I guess you can’t win them all, but it did go to show how certain trusts appear more willing to help themselves to secure coverage than others. I felt like I’d given each of the trusts an open goal in terms of positive publicity, but only two bothered to shoot in time.

Now, what does the Standard cover in terms of health?

To give an example of who or what I’ve written about over the last 12 months, I checked our electronic database and found the following mentions:

In terms of NHS trusts:

St George’s 34

Barts 30

Imperial 30

London Ambulance Service 29

King’s 28

Guy’s and St Thomas’s 24

GOSH 22

UCLH 8

Moorfields 2

In terms of diseases/areas of healthcare:

A&E 58

Cancer 55

Maternity 24

Trauma 19

Air ambulance 19

IVF 7

In terms of other people or organisations:

Junior doctors 44

Jeremy Hunt 42

Public Health England 21

CQC 8

Yvonne Doyle 7

Anne Rainsberry 2

Over the 12-month period, I wrote:

169 stories that mentioned NHS

29 that mentioned NHS England

24 that mentioned Department of Health.

There are no “no-go areas” in terms of our health coverage, but certain subjects are normally likely to get more space. We have a younger readership than the Mail, Telegraph and Express. As such, and it’s not an absolute rule, but there tends to be less interest in stories about dementia, Alzheimer’s and statins, for example.

A quick word about the Evening Standard and its difficult – or advantageous deadlines.

We have two editions a day – 11am and 1230pm. The first edition’s on the streets around 2pm, the second from about 4pm.

We print 930,000 copies a day, and about 600,000 people a day visit our website, giving us more than two million readers a day.

More people read the paper version of the Standard each day than the number who read the Telegraph and Times combined. Only the Sun, Mail and Metro have bigger paper circulations, and those are nationwide.

Our online audience has grown by almost 50 per cent year on year. However, not everything that appears in the paper ends up online, or vice versa.

To finish, here are a few examples of recent positive stories about the NHS.



There will always be bad news, whether it’s from inquests or NHS statistics or from me simply reading board papers. You can’t stop stories like this appearing:

Bad stories will still get in the paper but there’s a massive opportunity to get good ones in too.

How to contact me:

Twitter: @RossLydall

Email: Ross.Lydall@standard.co.uk

Boffin’s life-saving app inspired by mother’s career as NHS nurse

Tags

, , ,

The technology entrepreneur whose NHS smartphone app will alert doctors when patients fall critically ill today told how he had been inspired by his nurse mother.

A pioneering five-year deal was announced today between the Royal Free London hospital trust and the King’s Cross-based artificial intelligence firm DeepMind, a sister company of Google, giving it access to the medical files of all inpatients treated at its three hospitals.

Details of the contracts can be viewed on the DeepMind website.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman said his mother Yasmine’s career at Barnet General – now part of the Royal Free trust – was inspirational in him deciding to agree to the deal, which could save an estimated 10,000 lives a year if rolled out across the NHS.

aki-deepmind-mustafa-suleyman

Mustafa Suleyman: NHS app was inspired by his mother

He told the Standard: “My mum was a theatre nurse for 20 years at Barnet hospital. She was an old-school matron, very strict, but so focused on delivering genuine care. That was a massive inspiration to me, seeing how someone dedicated their life to delivering the best possible bedside care. When I told her what I was working on, she was really excited.

“For me, having the opportunity to provide some quite basic tools just to make things a little bit easier is incredible. We estimate we will save 30 minutes per day per nurse which, in time, will add up to half a million hours a year.”

The Streams app will monitor inpatient blood test results in real time and send a “breaking news” alert to the phones of consultant nephrologists if acute kidney injury is detected. The messages are “streamed” within the confines of the hospital and no information is stored on the doctor’s phone.

aki-patient-james-forde-with-lead-nurse-mary-emerson-jpg-2

Patient James Forde and lead nurse Mary Emerson

Acute kidney injury is difficult to spot from bedside observations but is a key indicator of life-threatening infections such as sepsis. One in five patients admitted via A&E have acute kidney injury, often caused simply by dehydration, and it is estimated to cause 40,000 deaths a year in England, a quarter of which are regarded as “preventable” if spotted quickly enough.

The Royal Free approached DeepMind in a bid to improve care that continues to rely on pagers and paperwork. The prototype app, which does not involve data sharing with Google services or accounts “under any circumstances”, goes live in January.

Mr Suleyman said: “The NHS is already the best value-for-money healthcare system in the world, bar none, yet has appalling technology. Imagine what it could do if we were able to deliver cutting-edge mobile devices with the best software systems and the best encryption.”

aki-app-jpg-2

David Sloman, chief executive of the Royal Free, said: “This is a partnership that has the ability to transform the way we use information to save lives and improve care.”

Sarah Stanley, a critical care nurse, said: “This will revolutionise our ability to get information about how unwell a patient is. Acute kidney injury and sepsis are the two things we are looking out for. The sooner we get that information, the sooner we can stop it.”

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

Meet London’s oldest paramedic, aged 70 and still saving lives after 50 years in the job

Tags

kevinwalker10

Kevin Walker: Joined LAS because he wanted to help people

London’s longest serving paramedic today told how he still loved saving lives as he clocked up 50 years of service.

Kevin Walker, 70, joined London Ambulance Service in 1966 and still works 12 hours a week after spending just one month in retirement in 2012.

Mr Walker, who rides his bike to Ilford Ambulance Station, where he has spent his whole career, said: “The highlights have definitely been resuscitating people. I joined up because I wanted to try and help people and I still enjoy the job. Being a paramedic makes you feel you’re doing something worthwhile.”

One of his most memorable moments was saving the life of a woman he knew as a hospital receptionist. “When you see someone you know in cardiac arrest, it’s not nice,” he said. “Thankfully we brought her back and when I was out shopping she came up to my wife and said: ‘Your husband saved my life.’”

1990-kevin-walker-william-gibbs2

Kevin and former colleague William Gibbs

He recalled having to battle through “pea souper” fogs in the Sixties to reach emergencies.

“They used to put a third man on the ambulance who would walk in front with a foot-long wax taper,” he said. “Between walking to the patient and then to hospital they could end up walking about seven miles.

“In those days we didn’t do so much treatment – if the patient was badly injured we just had to try and stop the bleeding and get them to hospital as quickly as we could.”

He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2013 in the Queen’s birthday honours.

LAS assistant director of operations Ian Johns said: “By any measure, Kevin is an extraordinary man who has committed his life to making sure people are taken care of.”

1990-kevin-walker-william-gibbs

Kevin and former colleague William Gibbs

 

£3m expansion of Evelina’s neonatal unit welcomed by parents whose baby was saved from rare heart defect

Tags

,

charlie-evelina

Baby Charlie with mum Maria and dad Will. Picture by Alex Lentati

The parents of a newborn baby whose life was “on a knife edge” when he turned blue four hours after birth today told how he was saved by specialist care at a London hospital.

Doctors at the Evelina London children’s hospital found that Charles Hanson was suffering from a rare condition that closed a valve in his heart, restricting it from pumping oxygenated blood around his body.

Today his parents Maria Teresa Creasey and Will Hanson (above) told of his survival as they welcomed the £3m expansion of the Evelina’s neonatal unit that will enable it to care for more than 1,000 critically ill babies a year and help to tackle a national shortage of neonatal cots.

Charles, who was given the middle name Geraint after one of the doctors who helped save him, Dr Geraint Lee, was born next door at St Thomas’s hospital on October 18.

He was placed on life support and gradually progressed through the neonatal unit’s three levels of care – high dependency, intensive care and special care. Last night he was well enough to go home to Kennington.

Ms Creasey, an actor who has appeared in the films Spooks: The Greater Good and The Program, said: “He was on a knife-edge for 10 days.”

She said his induced delivery, almost two weeks after her due date, hit a “sweet spot”. She said: “I think maybe he wouldn’t be here if the timing hadn’t been so perfect. If he had been born a little bit later he might have been stillborn.

“In the span of four hours we went from the best moment of our life to the scariest moment of our life. He was immediately put on life support. The specialist care is pretty amazing.”

Dr Tim Watts, clincial lead for the neonatal unit, said it had doubled its high-dependency cots from six to 12, and increased intensive care cots from 16 to 22. The unit now has beds or cots for 54 babies.

He said Evelina London was now “significantly more likely” to be able to care for life-endangered babies than a year ago, and not undergo the “frustration” of having to turn some away due to a lack of space. The unit has been running at 95-100 per cent occupancy.
In 2002, it had 34 cots and treated 524 babies. “This year we will admit over 1,000 babies for the first time,” Dr Watts said.

james-and-georgie-melville-ross

The unit was officialy opened by James Melville-Ross, above with wife Georgie, whose twins, Thomas and Alice, were cared for at Evelina London’s NNU after being born at 24 weeks.

He said: “The Neonatal Unit enabled us to realise the gift of parenthood. It’s a huge honour to be part of today’s celebrations and to get the opportunity to say thank you to the NNU and its incredible people. 

 “Without the amazing staff here, our story would have only been one page, instead of chapters full to the brim with new experiences and laughter every single day.  We will never, ever forget what they have given us, the joy that we have as a family. 

“But we are aware that we are the lucky ones. Sometimes there just aren’t enough cots to go round. That’s why today’s increase in critical care, intensive care and isolation cots is so important.”

Click here to read James’s full speech and to read an Evening Standard feature about his family

Sir Hugh Taylor, chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS trust, which runs Evelina, said: “Nationally, there is a shortage of critical care beds for babies. I know we won’t have any difficulty in filling the extra beds we put in.

“This is a time of great difficulty for the NHS nationally. We are committed to growing and expanding our services so we can offer the best possible care to the biggest number, in this case babies, and to help people at an absolutely critical time in their lives, moments of sometimes darkness and of great joy as well.”

He added: “This isn’t about beds. This is about human life.”

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

‘Without the Evelina, our family story would have been only one page, not chapters full of fun and laughter’

Tags

,

james-melville-ross

James Melville-Ross, above right, with wife Georgie and Dr Tim Watts, officially opened the expanded neonatal unit at Evelina London children’s hospital on Tuesday evening. This is his speech:

My wife Georgie and I first came to this hospital in August 2003 when our twins Thomas and Alice were born.  They were born early, at 24 weeks, and they weighed just a pound and a half each.  The doctor said that they had a 20 per cent chance of surviving.

During those first few days, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  But every time they were saved by the amazing people who work in this hospital – people like Grenville, Tim and Caroline who are here this evening.

Alice had four heart attacks on the first night and they resuscitated her with adrenalin shots.

On the second day there was a power cut across the whole of the South East of England knocking out the machines keeping our babies alive and they battled to save the children’s lives with hand oxygen pumps.

Then, on day three, Thomas’ lungs filled with blood and they asked us if we wanted to have him baptised because he was going to die within the next twenty minutes. But again they managed to save him.

When Thomas nearly lost his life with a severe case of necrotising entercolitis – Tim, are you impressed that I remember how to say it? – you saved him again. Collapsed lungs, superbugs, brain operations, heart operations, you saved them every time.

Fair to say not the start to parenthood, either of us was expecting.  We felt completely powerless.  One of the consultants, Bal Sharma, said to us we must talk to them and love them – they grow stronger knowing you are there supporting them.

We took him at his word and I remember whispering promises through the portholes of their incubators.  “You have to hang on, I promise I will give you the best life.  We’re going to have so much fun together.  My promise to you.  If you fight to survive.”

And survive they did.  After nine months here at Tommy’s they came home to huge celebration.  That they did is down solely to the dedication of the staff here.  I wrote a letter  – somehow thank you didn’t really cover it, but words were all we had…

Thank you for getting Thomas and Alice out of the starting blocks and for giving them a chance at life. Thank you for giving us a glimmer of hope when all hope seemed to have gone. Thank you for bringing light into some very dark moments. Thank you for always knowing what to say and for having the courage to say it. Thank you for never trying to make it sound better than it was. Thank you for helping us to stay positive throughout. Thank you for the hugs and the shoulders to cry on. Thank you for the love and dedication you gave to our twins. And thank you for enabling us to realise the gift of parenthood.

Within a week of taking them home, we were back into A&E after I dropped Tommy on his head in the kitchen.  As Darcy, one of the NICU nurses said when he saw us, “we’ve spent nine months saving their lives.  You’ve been home five minutes and you’re chucking him on his head.”  What a disaster.

The story doesn’t end there.

james-melville-ross-and-family

Click here for a feature on the Melville-Ross family published in the Evening Standard in June 2016.

The effect of those early setbacks was that the twins have a condition called quadriplegic cerebral palsy.  They are largely incapable of independent movement and are reliant on adult support for every element of daily living – washing, dressing, feeding and so on.  Thomas is also profoundly deaf.  BUT cognitively they are all there – they understand everything and are the smiliest kids you could hope to meet.

We took a while to reconcile ourselves to this setback after everything that the twins had survived, it seemed so unfair. It’s fair to say a bit of sulking and moping went on.  How the hell were we going to cope with not one but two severely disabled kids?  There’s no instruction manual for that.

Then I remembered the whispered promises I had made to the twins through their incubator doors.  I had promised them that if they made it I would give them the best possible life.

We needed to get off our backsides and give the twins some great experiences.

Which is how Tommy and I ended up running in our local 10k together with 1,000 other runners – me in my trainers, him in his wheelchair – and he slaps the bum of a lady runner as we overtake.   She looks round in surprise and I’m pointing at my son, saying, ‘it was him!’ and then I see the disgusted look in her eyes that says ‘you smacked me on the arse and now you’re blaming the disabled kid’.

Or some of the moments I’ve had with Alice…  For years, I’ve been tucking her into bed every night and telling her how much I love her and she has told me with her eyes that she feels the same, but hasn’t been able to say those words.  And then, suddenly one night, after ten years, she raises her head from the pillow and with laser-like focus says the words, “I love you, Daddy”.  She then laughed when she saw the tears dripping down the nose of her pathetic father.

Or the time when we got their powered wheelchairs for the first time and Tommy rammed into his eighteen month old sister – because he could.  For the first time in his life he wasn’t being pushed in a wheelchair and he could go where he wanted – and where he wanted was to drive directly over his annoying younger sister.  (Actually, if we could keep that story to these four walls I’d appreciate it… We have enough visits from social services to deal with…)

The first time they rode a horse, the first time they went skiing, the first time they did rock climbing.  Yes, you can do rock climbing in a wheelchair.

Or the time when Tommy had his hearing aid switched on and lifted his head when he heard his name for the first time.

The point is, these experiences would never happened if it hadn’t been for the dedication of the NICU team here at Tommys.  We would never have been able to fulfil our promises.

It’s a huge honour to be part of today’s celebrations and to get the opportunity to be able to say thank you to this hospital and its incredible people.  They are the heroes of this story, as much as the twins.

Without the amazing staff here, our story would have only been one page, instead of chapters full to the brim with new experiences and laughter every single day.  We will never, ever forget what you have given us, the joy that we have as a family.

But we are also aware that we are the lucky ones.  Sometimes there just aren’t enough beds to go round, sometimes the most vulnerable, most tiny babies don’t get this urgent care.  That’s why today’s increase in critical care, intensive care and isolation cots is so important.  So that everyone gets to have the experience that parenthood brings.

So thank you.  Because of you, Georgie and I get to experience what it is to be a parent.

And the lessons our twins teach us every single day make us grow as people.  They are better human beings than I could ever hope to be.  We are just so grateful that we were given the chance to get to know them.

Cycle superhighway will be completed outside Buckingam Palace, deputy mayor assures campaigners

Tags

, , ,

constitution-hill-4

The long-delayed completion of the £47m cycle superhighway that will pass in front of Buckingham Palace should be completed next year, Britain’s top cycling campaigner has been assured.

Concerns have been mounting that Transport for London would leave a “half-mile gap” in the largely segregated east-west route between Hyde Park and Tower Hill due to funding cuts and logistical headaches.

The route, Boris Johnson’s flagship cycling scheme, had been due to be completed by the time he left office in May. However, TfL only started work on Constitution Hill last month (see pics) and has been unable to set a date for completion of the Spur Road and Birdcage Walk sections.

constitution-hill-3

Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion who is policy adviser to British Cycling, said he received assurances when he raised the delays with Val Shawcross, Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.

He told the Standard: “That is going ahead as planned, is what I was told.” He added: “I had a good meeting with Val. She has always been a supporter of cycling. I’m well aware in politics it’s not always about the person who has the top job. I don’t know the system she has to work with.”

Mr Khan will face questions at Mayor’s Question Time next week about the delay and the extent of his discussions with the Royal Parks, the quango responsible for St James’s Park and Green Park.

Caroline Russell, the Green assembly member who will put the superhighway questions to the Mayor, said she had been assured by Ms Shawcross that the Birdcage Walk section “would be going ahead”, with construction due to begin possibly next month.

“We just need to keep watching it,” she said. “Despite the fact we are seeing really positive stuff in terms of the number of people using these cycle routes, there are an awful lot of people who would prefer the polluted, congested status quo.”

constitution-hill-2

The Mayor’s part-time cycling and walking commissioner is unlikely to be appointed until the new year. Mr Boardman said he was disappointed that TfL had failed to “pick the brains” of Mr Johnson’s cycling czar Andrew Gilligan to keep the “cycling revolution” on track.

Mr Boardman said: “There is knowledge there that isn’t being used. There was no move even to keep him as an interim until they had a replacement. If you want to triple the amount of cycle lanes, you can quickly start to run out of time if there are months when nothing new has happened.”

Yestterday Mr Boardman and Dame Sarah Storey launched a campaign calling on the Government to give £250 tax breaks to people who cycle to work, and to provide £100,000 grants to firms to help them provide showers and locker rooms.

TfL this week revealed £11 million of “slippage” in the amount it had been due to spend on cycling this financial year. New TfL budgets are due to be set by the Mayor later this month. He pledged in his manifesto to make London “a byword for cycling around the world”.

TfL said that cyclists now accounted for more than half of all peak-hour traffic on the Victoria Embankment. More than 7,000 use that section of the east-west superhighway each day in the morning and evening peaks, with 8,400 using the north-south superhighway on Blackfriars bridge.

Nigel Hardy, head of road space management sponsorship at TfL, said: “The busy area around Green Park and St James’s Park hosts many festive and ceremonial events and we are working hard to complete this work in the least disruptive and most cost-effective way. This means that construction will now extend into the New Year.”

constitution-hill-1