London’s deadliest road gets new junction to protect cyclists from left-turning vehicles

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The UK’s first junction designed to protect cyclists from being hit by left-turning vehicles was unveiled today on London’s deadliest road.

Transport for London has introduced the changes on the Mayor’s Cycle Superhighway 2 on Whitechapel Road, at its junction with Cambridge Heath Road.

The new layout uses traffic lights to hold back traffic wanting to turn left, while allowing cyclists and vehicles heading straight on to go first. Cyclists are held at a red light when vehicles get a green light to turn left.

The chosen junction is not one of the most problematic but CS2 has been the location for a number of fatalities, including at Aldgate and Bow. Victims have included Philipine de Gerin-Ricard and Brian Dorling.

All 11 major junctions along the superhighway – currently being segregated from vehicles along almost its entire length – will feature such “early release” junctions for cyclists by next year. The junctions will also be introduced elsewhere in London.

London mayor Boris Johnson said: “I made a firm commitment that we would upgrade cycle superhighway 2 to ensure that cyclists get the time and the space they need to cycle safely. That’s exactly what’s happening here in east London.

“The innovations we’re using at Cambridge Heath are a fantastic taster of the raft of improvements that are coming down the track, ensuring that people can cycle safely and more confidently in our city.”

There is also a two-stage right turn for cyclists. About 85 per cent of cyclist collisions happen at junctions, mostly involving turning traffic. TfL hopes the new system will reduce the number of cyclists injured in London. A total of 5,146 were injured last year – the highest figure since 1989.

Work to upgrade the superhighway began in February and is now half complete. Once finished, the vast majority of the route will be separated with a kerb. Where space is tighter, flexible poles or “wands” will keep cyclists separate from vehicles.

TfL said the work at the Cambridge Heath junction was “co-ordinated” with improvements taking place at Aldgate – where the route narrows and becomes one of the most terrifying routes in the capital due to the number of lorries, coaches and taxis – to minimise inconvenience to riders. At present, much of CS2 is being dug up – making it hazardous for cyclists and pedestrians.

Caroline Pidgeon, Lib-Dem transport spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: “While it is regrettable that serious mistakes were made with the initial superhighway 2 it is very welcome that such innovate designs and safety measures are now being adopted.”

Copenhagen-style bike lanes in Camden Town will create Swiss Cottage to Canary Wharf cycle route

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Plans were unveiled today for a major cycle route linking Swiss Cottage to Canary Wharf and Barking that will include Danish-style segregated lanes in Camden Town.

It copies a design pioneered in Copenhagen, one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, that builds the cycle lane higher than the road but lower than the pavement to keep cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles separate.

Camden council has proposed the layout for Delancey Street and Pratt Street, currently the “missing link” in the route via Swiss Cottage and Regent’s Park to King’s Cross, where riders will be able to connect to Transport for London’s new north-south King’s Cross to Elephant and Castle cycle superhighway and a number of other protected routes.

Copnhagen-style bike lane in Pancras Road (Pic via @PhilJones79/Twitter)

Copenhagen-style bike lane in Pancras Road (Pic via @PhilJones79/Twitter)

Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor of London’s cycling commissioner, said: “This outstanding scheme will break one of north London’s main barriers to cycling.

“Once the links are complete, cyclists will be able to ride from Swiss Cottage and Camden Town to Canary Wharf, Barking or Elephant & Castle entirely on separated cycle tracks or low-traffic streets. It’s testimony to the power of the relationship between TfL and a borough genuinely committed to cycling.”

The route through Delancey Street and Pratt Street will create a contraflow for cyclists on 2m-wide tracks and better crossings for pedestrians. This will link to Camden’s widely-praised cycle lane in Royal College Street, and a new route in Pancras Road. The work is part of the Mayor’s central London cycling grid.

Phil Jones, Camden’s cabinet member for transport, said: “These new plans are for some of best cycling facilities that London has seen and will open up a network of safe and attractive routes for the growing number of cyclists who want to cycle through Camden.

“Camden already has some safe and attractive cycle routes and by the end of 2015, we are on track to have doubled the amount of segregated cycle lanes in the past two years.

“By the end of 2016 we plan to have over 10km of new and improved segregated cycle lanes in the borough linking many of our town centres to each other and to the West End and City.”

Full details of the consultation: https://consultations.wearecamden.org/culture-environment/walking-and-cycling-pratt-st-delancey-st

Mayoral hopeful proposes free Boris bikes for pensioners and expansion of scheme

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Pensioners would be able to ride Boris bikes for free, under an expansion of the Mayor’s cycle hire scheme proposed today by a prospective Labour candidate.

Christian Wolmar would allow older Londoners to use their old-age Freedom Passes, which provide free bus and Tube transport, instead of paying the £2-a-day bike hire.

He vowed to expand the scheme across south London and the parts of north London, such as north Camden and Islington, where there are no docking stations. Suburban boroughs would be able to bid for hubs in their town centres. He wants bikes to be hired and returned at mainline train stations.

Mr Wolmar said: “At the moment this is very much a Zone 1 and 2 scheme aimed at ABC1s. I want to turn it into a mass form of transport that will help to reduce congestion and encourage all Londoners to get on their bikes.

“In Paris, people are able to hold onto their bikes for up to a month by paying a higher fee. That would mean they would not use expensive docking space and probably many will then eventually buy their own bikes.”

Students offered £2,000 annual bursaries to train as London Ambulance paramedics

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Students reconsidering their options after receiving their A-level results are being offered a £2,000-a-year university bursary to encourage them to become paramedics.

London Ambulance Service has increased from 250 to 600 the number of annual places it will offer to students in a bid to plug a long-standing shortage of frontline staff.

The places are available at four universities – with one partnership between St George’s, University of London and Kingston university boasting high-tech simulation rooms to make the training as realistic as possible.

The recruitment plan is a key part of LAS’s long-term strategy to attract and train Londoners. It has been forced to hire hundreds of Australian paramedics as a short-term solution to solving its vacancy crisis, and will return Down Under next month for a third visit.

LAS places on £9,000-a-year paramedic science BSc courses are available at St George’s, Greenwich, Hertfordshire and Anglia Ruskin universities. London paramedics currently start on a salary of £31,456.

Jane Thomas of LAS said: “I see it as a real positive. It’s very exciting for us and it’s good to bring new blood into the profession. We will have more people on the road and high-quality staff who will be able to treat Londoners.”

Daniel Ryan: started work as LAS paramedic this week

Daniel Ryan: started work as LAS paramedic this week

Daniel Ryan, 23, a former nurse living in Streatham, started work as a London paramedic on Monday after completing his paramedic training at St George’s.

He said:  “It’s something I have always wanted to do. I have always been attracted to the diversity the role offers, being out and about and being able to treat a non-specific group of patients. The course itself is run by paramedics who have a wealth of experience.”

Chris Baker, paramedic science admissions tutor at St George’s, said it had about 50 places left. “I think this campaign is so necessary,” he said.

“There is this national shortage of paramedics. We need to get people working in ambulances and urgent care centres to make sure the public have got what they need. This is a fantastic job.”

Victoria line upgrade will create ‘most frequent Tube service in Europe’, says TfL

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Work to upgrade the Victoria line will make it the most frequent Tube service in Europe, Underground bosses said today.

They said it would set the “gold standard” for public transport, with 36 trains an hour – double the number when it first opened in 1968.

An £11 million programme to replace a “scissors” track-crossing outside Walthamstow Central station has forced the closure of the northern end of the line for three weeks and disruption for thousands of east London commuters.

But Tube bosses said insist the long-term gain will be worth the short-term pain, with passengers seeing train frequencies increase from 24 to 36 trains an hour when a new signalling system is installed next summer.

David Waboso, capital programmes director at London Underground, said: “We are renewing the ironwork, track, foundations signalling and power so we can get trains to come in faster and leave faster.

“Because of that, we can get more trains per hour into Walthamstow, which will mean we can increase the number of trains in this section of the line from 24 to 36 an hour from next year. It will be a massive improvement for our customers.

“We think 36 trains an hour will make it the most frequently used line in Europe, apart from Moscow, which runs 40.

“I think the Victoria line now sets the bar for where we want to take our next lines. Thirty-six trains an hour is really pushing at being the best in the world.

“Across most of our modernised lines now, we are pushing the barrier to 30 trains an hour on the Jubilee line, the Central line and increasingly the Northern line when we get the next section of the upgrade finished.”

The three-week closure has taken three years to plan. About 300 contractors are working round the clock to complete the project by August 30, with services resuming for the August bank holiday and Notting Hill carnival.

The Standard was given access to the tunnels and saw how a new interchange will allow trains to be “turned around” at Walthamstow Central much more quickly.

As a driver gets out of the cab at one end of the train, another will be ready at the other end of the platform to drive it back towards Brixton. At peak times, trains will be about only 50m apart.

Programme manager Mark Maher, 42, is continuing work started by his father Harry, now 81, who helped dig the tunnels for the Victoria line in the Sixties.

Mark Maher said: “When the original tunnel was being dug from 1964 onwards, him and a few other parts of my family were working here as tunnel minders and pit bosses for the duration of construction.

“He would probably like to come down here and check my work to make sure the quality was there.

“People of today’s age don’t really understand the complexity of the work there was to build it.”

Investigation launched after NHS attempts to win back £72 million contract from private sector

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An investigation has been launched into a London hospital’s bid to win back a £72 million contract from the private sector to treat thousands of patients.

The NHS regulator Monitor is checking whether having “low risk” day surgery performed by NHS doctors is in the best interest of patients.

It is Monitor’s first probe into patient choice, competition and the “tariff” charged for each procedure, and shows how the NHS is “fighting back” in a bid to secure lucrative work to offset the huge cost of providing A&E care.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from Care UK after it lost the contract to perform about 15,000 operations a year, such as hip replacements and cataract removal, at the North East London NHS Treatment Centre in Ilford.

Care UK had run the centre since it opened 10 years ago. But GPs from four east London clinical commissioning groups instead awarded the five-year deal to Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS trust, which runs the adjacent King George hospital and Queen’s hospital in Romford.

Catherine Davies, executive director of co-operation and competition at Monitor, said: “This complaint raises important questions for patients about how elective services are commissioned and paid for.

“Our investigation is at an early stage and we have not yet reached a view as to whether there has been any breach of the rules. We are now seeking further information from the organisations involved.”

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge, said: “Being named as preferred bidder shows that commissioners have real confidence in the quality of our services and the care that we provide to our patients.

“It’s great news for the communities of North East London – some of the most deprived in the country – and for the health economy. Importantly, it also shows real commitment to the future of King George hospital.”

The CCGs said: “Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering, and Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Groups are disappointed that this investigation has been launched. The CCGs remain confident that our arrangements to select a provider of these services were in the best interests of patients.”

A Care UK spokeswoman said: “We welcome Monitor’s announcement of an investigation into the procurement process for the operation of the existing NHS North East London Treatment Centre, run successfully by Care UK since 2005.

“Care UK confirms that it has raised concerns with Monitor and the local CCG regarding the appropriateness of price competition for NHS tariff services, the loss of patient choice and the weighting and evaluation of clinical quality in the procurement process.

“Care UK is committed to continuing to operate the service to the highest possible standards and continuing to support the local NHS in addressing its performance challenges during the period of Monitor’s investigation.”

Ambulance service sets up ‘paramedic academy’ to attract home-grown talent – and heads back to Australia for 200 new recruits

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London Ambulance Service is setting up its own training “academy” in a bid to attract more home-grown talent to become paramedics.

The initiative comes as the LAS announced a third visit to Australia to recruit 200 foreign staff – amid plans to offer London medics the chance of a career break Down Under.

The under-pressure service sees foreign paramedics as a key way of quickly plugging its 400 front-line vacancies. Staff shortages mean it continues to miss NHS response-time targets to 999 calls.

Last month it reached 66.5 per cent of the most serious emergencies within eight minutes – the target is 75 per cent.

It normally takes three years for universities to train paramedics but the LAS training school aims to do it in two. Courses will be run at existing LAS education centres.

The academy – an ambulance alternative to the Met police college in Hendon – is due to enrol its first 50 students in January. Candidates – either LAS junior emergency crew or people new to the service – will be paid a salary as they train “on the job” as they work up to fully qualified paramedic status.

Recruitment staff will spend two weeks in Sydney and Melbourne in September seeking to lure newly-qualified Australian and New Zealand paramedics to the capital.

Previous trips last September and in March saw about 400 come to London. They are offered salaries starting at £30,563 and rising to £39,452. Paramedics have also been recruited from the US, Poland and Germany.

The ability of the foreign recruits is said to be “variable”. Some are quickly available for front-line duties while others need to be “Londonised” to improve their driving skills and familiarise them with the Tube and other likely medical challenges.

It can also be revealed that London staff could be heading in the opposite direction in the wake of the departure of LAS operations director Jason Killens, who is becoming chief executive of South Australia Ambulance Service.

Precise details are still to be worked out. But LAS chief executive Dr Fionna Moore said: “Hopefully when Jason is in post, we will look to do thinks like exchanging staff.”

LAS chairman Richard Hunt said: “Having ‘embedded’ someone in Australia, we would like to take advantage of it.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s flying visit to London’s Air Ambulance

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Royal London helipad

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Royal London helipad. Picture by Nigel Pacquette

Jeremy Hunt today met patients saved by London’s Air Ambulance as he saw how the capital’s only emergency helicopter delivers trauma care to hundreds of people a year.

The Health Secretary was flown in the helicopter from its overnight base at RAF Northolt to the helipad at the Royal London hospital, in Whitechapel, where he saw a simulation of how some patients are taken down into the major trauma unit.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 4

Meeting the air aumbulance team and survivors Aderonke Joseph and Dr Chloe Baker Picture by Nigel Pacquette

He met Aderonke Joseph, who had her lower right leg amputated after being hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Shoreditch in January, and Dr Chloe Baker, 29, who was run over by a lorry in East Sheen as she cycled to a lecture at medical school in 2007. Dr Baker went on to become an an intensive care doctor at the Royal London.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 3

Mock cyclist injury. Picture by Nigel Pacquette

Mr Hunt, who saw a mock demonstration of the treatment given to a cyclist who had collided with a bus, praised the air ambulance team for “providing vital support to critically ill trauma patients across London”.

Jeremy Hunt air ambulance 2

Mr Hunt then went down to the Royal London’s emergency department, where he saw the handover of the “patient” from the air ambulance medics to the hospital team.

He also answered the “code red” phone for major trauma cases (speaking to a member of the LAA ground crew), and completing a sheet which details the patient’s assessment and treatment by the LAA team.

This information is used by the hospital team to immediately put in place all staff required for the patient’s treatment.

Trauma call: Jeremy Hunt answers the emergency department 'Code red' phone

Trauma call: Jeremy Hunt answers the emergency department ‘Code red’ phone

Mr Hunt said: “It was a privilege to meet staff and former patients to talk about their experiences, and to see how the team handle the toughest calls – from initial incident response to the handover with Royal London Hospital’s Emergency Department for further treatment.”

The air ambulance was set up as a charity in 1989 and is a partnership between the NHS, Barts Health – which runs the Royal London – and the London Ambulance Service. It is fundraising for a second helicopter. Its medics treat an average of five critically ill people a day.

The emergency department team at the Royal London, with Barts Health chief executive Alwen Williams and Jeremy Hunt

The emergency department team at the Royal London, with Barts Health chief executive Alwen Williams (first left) and Jeremy Hunt

Crisis shortage of nurses forces London hospitals to close operating theatres and wards

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Hospitals wards and operating theatres are being closed because of a “perfect storm” shortage of nurses in London.

Barts Health, which runs five east London hospitals, has almost 1,200 vacancies – one in five of its nurses and midwives.

Almost one in six nursing posts were vacant in May at the Royal Free trust, which has three north London hospitals, at Imperial College Healthcare – which has five west London hospitals – and at St George’s Healthcare, which has two in south west London.

Experts believe the capital is short of “several thousand” nurses. Jan Stevens, interim chief nurse at Barts Health, said: “It’s like a perfect storm. Everyone is fishing in the same pond for nurses but there is a shortage.

“This is not just for Barts Health – it just looks worse for us because we are the biggest trust in the country. Obviously the vacancies we have sound staggering, but there are a lot of vacancies across the country.”

Some of the worst problems are at St Bartholomew’s hospital, where the new Barts Heart Centre has been forced to close two theatres and two catheter labs. Staff shortages have forced the closure of 15 per cent of beds at the hospital, in Smithfield, the Barts Health board was told yesterday (Wednesday).

Professor Charles Knight, director of Barts Heart Centre, said it had 120 nurse vacancies. Eighty job offers have been made, including to 44 nurses from the Philippines. “The Philippines nurses are taking a lot longer to reach us than we anticipated,” he said. “It may be that 44 turns into 20.”

At Whipps Cross hospital, in Leytonstone, staff shortages have forced the closure of a midwife-led birth unit on 15 days so far this year. Beds were also closed on the trauma and orthopaedic wards at Whipps Cross.

Inspectors from Health Education England have sounded the alarm over two “adverse incidents” at Newham hospital’s maternity unit relating to a lack of cover.

Across the trust, 46 “red flag” warnings were raised in June in relation to staffing.

The shortage of permanent staff has sent the trust’s bill for agency staff and overtime soaring to £14.3 million a month.

As a result, Barts Health is facing a £134.9 million deficit by next March, the biggest ever seen in the NHS, and surpassing its £78 million deficit in 2014/15, itself a NHS record loss.

Demand for nurses has been driven across the country by new safer staffing ratios introduced after the Mid Staffs scandal and by hospitals having to care for older, sicker patients after the failure of care in the community initiatives. It takes three years to train a nurse.

The nurse shortage at Barts Health more than doubled from 562 full-time posts in March (2015) to 1,173 in June, partly as a result of the opening of Barts Heart Centre.

Barts Health estimates it will take until February 2017 before it can reduce vacancies to five per cent. It expects to have to make more than 9,500 job offers to plug the gaps across all its services due to the one in seven staff who quit each year.

Recruitment interviews are being conducted via Skype to assess partly-vetted foreign candidates. Barts Health is also recruiting from Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Croatia.

About 100 student nurses from London universities are due to join the trust in September.

However the trust’s position as a “failing” organisation is proving a barrier, alongside the battle to retain new recruits for longer than a year.

“They can burn out,” Ms Stevens said. “It’s relentless out there on these wards. They’re so, so busy.”

Regulator intervenes amid fears of financial meltdown at ’24 Hours in A&E’ hospital

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NHS regulators today intervened in the hospital trust that runs one of London’s four major trauma centres in a bid to avert financial meltdown and tackle delays in treating patients.

Monitor, the watchdog for self-governing foundation trusts, ordered immediate improvements at St George’s Healthcare only five months after it was allowed to run its own affairs.

The move is embarrassing for St George’s, which features in the Channel 4 TV documentary 24 Hours in A&E, and comes amid fears it is on course for a £46.2 million deficit – the third worst among foundation trusts.

The trust runs St George’s hospital, in Tooting, and Queen Mary’s in Roehampton and is the largest healthcare provider in south west London, caring for 1.3 million people. It has repeatedly missed the four-hour A&E target and 18-week deadline to refer patients for planned operations, as well as the 62-day cancer treatment deadlines.

It has insufficient capacity to ease the backlog of operations and a shortage of funding. At one stage it was feared its losses, which were £16.8 million in 2014/15, could reach £75 million by next March. Today it declared itself a “distressed provider” as it sought bail-out funds.

This is the second intervention by Monitor in south west London after ordering improvements two weeks ago at Kingston hospital, where an £8.8 million deficit is feared.

Mark Turner, regional director at Monitor said: “St George’s faces some serious financial challenges and needs to act decisively, so that patients can continue to receive quality healthcare.

“Our action is designed to support the trust in getting a better grip on its finances by improving their financial management and planning.

“These steps if implemented effectively and promptly should enable the trust to stabilise its financial position and improve how it is run.”

St George’s said in a statement:

Our board of directors acknowledges these findings by Monitor and has agreed a series of actions with the regulator to ensure the trust has robust recovery plans in place.

The trust is committed to establishing a stronger financial footing and is revisiting its current £43m saving plans and to identify new areas of cost improvement and income growth.

Tighter controls for budget holders, reduced use of temporary staff and a more focused approach to recruitment is already having a positive impact on the finances. In addition, staff have submitted nearly 100 ideas on how to improve efficiency and reduce waste whilst keeping patient care as their priority.

Chief Executive Miles Scott said: “The decline in our operational and financial performance occurred at a time when the NHS nationally – particularly hospital trusts – was under a great deal of pressure. Whilst these operational pressures may have hit us harder than other trusts, we take full responsibility for getting the trust back on track financially.

“We have a challenging time ahead of us and are adamant that our increased focus on figures will not be at the expense of quality.

“Patient safety remains paramount. I am proud that we continue to have low mortality rates, impressive results in the national stroke services audit, and – from our most recent CQC inspection – a rating of ‘good’ for our services overall, with some being highlighted as ‘outstanding’.

“We continue to strive for high standards and have confirmed a series of quality checks to sit alongside our saving plans. These will ensure that efficiencies will not compromise the care our staff provide.”

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