Woman runs marathon to fund heart checks for young Londoners after boyfriend’s shock death



Fiona T-shirt for James

The girlfriend of an Olympic architect who died during a half-marathon is running the London marathon to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death in young people.

Fiona Barnes, 27, told how “my world was obliterated” when her boyfriend of five years James Phillips, 27, collapsed and died near the finish line of the Reigate half-marathon last September.

She has used the training for the London race on April 26 to overcome the “indescribable pain and loss” of Mr Phillips’ death. She and best friend Suzy Kerton, who is also running the marathon, aim to raise £15,000 to fund hundreds of free heart checks for young Londoners.

Ms Barnes, from Amersham, recalled how she and Mr Phillips spent hours cheering on runners at last year’s London marathon. “I’ll never forget James turning to me and saying, ‘Let’s do this together before we are 30,’” she told the Standard. “Then Reigate happened and my world was obliterated.”

James, Fiona and Suzy

James, Fiona and Suzy

The three were part of a group of about 40 friends who ran the half-marathon and who looked on in horror as paramedics tried in vain to save Mr Phillips’ life. Ms Barnes followed Ms Kerton in being accepted to run London for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) in his memory.

“It all fell into place, from James saying ‘let’s do this race together’, to the fact that CRY is such a fantastic, life-saving charity I’d never known existed before, and I found this drive to raise both money for them and awareness of the work they do,” Ms Barnes said.

“Training for the marathon has definitely helped me to cope with the impact of James’ death. It’s given me a huge goal and a real focus which – along with the amazing love and support of my friends and family – I honestly think has got me through the past six months.

“I love the freedom of running, I love how it clears my head, I love how I can escape the grief and sadness of losing James and find a place where I don’t really feel anything other than a bit of physical pain towards the end of a long run.”

CRY estimates 16 young Britons die each week from sudden cardiac death. About 90 per cent of victims are like Mr Phillips and display no symptoms.

Mr Phillips, who lived in Battersea, was an accomplished architect whose firm Make helped design the London 2012 athletes’ village. The BBC, where Ms Barnes works in human resources, has helped raise more than £3,000, with sports presenter John Inverdale hosting a pub quiz.

She and Ms Kerton, hope a silent disco at Mahiki nightclub on May 9 will help them reach their fundraising target. Each heart check offered by CRY costs £35.

“What happened to James was so untimely, so unnatural and there is no explanation for those of us left behind,” Ms Barnes said. “James deserved to have the full and happy life he was looking forward to and he would have continued living it to the full every day. To lose him in such a shocking way at such a young age has been absolutely devastating.

“If we can raise enough money in James’ memory to fund 300 heart checks then I will feel like I have saved a life, and I’ll have stopped one family going through the indescribable pain and loss that James’ family, friends and I are going through.”

Fiona, Suzy and James in Sydney

Fiona, Suzy and James in Sydney

Ms Kerton, 27, from East Acton, said: “If someone had done it for us, maybe James would still be here.”

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

* To donate, visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/jamesyp

Wiggo chooses Olympic velodrome for tilt at ‘holy grail’ of cycling


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Sir Bradley Wiggins today announced that the Olympic velodrome will host his bid to claim cycling’s “holy grail” hour record.

Britain’s first Tour de France winner will attempt the feat on June 7 in front of what is expected to be a passionate crowd. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday.

He said: “The Hour Record is a holy grail for cyclists. It’s been fought over tooth and nail by some of the greatest names in our sport for over a hundred years and it’s time for me to have a crack at it.

“I like the idea of challenging myself and want to motivate people to do the same – so why not get your bike out of the shed and see how far you can go in an hour?”

The current record is held by Australian cyclist Rohan Dennis, who rode 52.491km (32.6 miles) in February. Since first being established in the 19th century, the hour record has been known as one of sport’s most simple and brutal contests.

Australian Jack Bobridge had to be carried from his bike after missing the then record by 500m in January. He said the attempt was “the nearest I will come to death without dying”.

Wiggins, whose 2012 Olympic gold came in the time trial around Hampton Court Palace, is returning to track cycling in an attempt to become Britain’s most decorated Olympian at the 2016 Rio Games.

He left Team Sky at the weekend after finishing 18th in the Paris-Roubaix one-day race across northern France.

Tickets for the velodrome, now known as Lee Valley VeloPark, are priced from £29 to £49 and will be available from tickets.sky.com/cycling

2015 election manifestos: what the parties promise for cyclists


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Here’s a quick look at what the Tories, Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Greens are promising in their 2015 General Election manifestos in terms of cycling and cycle safety.

Unsurprising, perhaps, the Greens go furthest – and admirably call for a change in the burden of proof in road collisions (ie the motorists would be presumed liable for any collision, rather than the prosecution having to prove fault). They want to ban lorries without safety sensors from towns and cities.

Green election manifesto 2015

Green election manifesto 2015

There is also a promise from the Greens on cycle parking and cycle storage on residential streets.

Green election manifesto 2015

Green election manifesto 2015

The Lib-Dems call for a wholscale acceptance of the cross-party Get Britain Cycling report (which was co-chaired by Lib-Dem MP Julian Huppert) but would keep spending within current departmental limits.

LibDem election manifesto 2015

LibDem election manifesto 2015

The Tories want to double the number of journeys by bike (but don’t say by when) and offer a £200m investment, which is pretty modest for the country as a whole when London’s £913 million plans are taken as comparison.

Tory manifesto 2015

Tory manifesto 2015

Labour is arguably the most disappointing, promising only to “promote cycling”. What a shame that Mary Creagh, a keen cyclist, was booted out of the shadow transport brief off to the wilderness of international development for effectively being too good…

Labour manifesto 2015

Labour manifesto 2015

Battle for Thurrock: Tory MP vows UKIP victory won’t happen ‘in a million years’


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Poster wars: one of many UKIP posters in South Ockendon

Poster wars: one of many UKIP posters in South Ockendon

Thurrock is regarded by bookmakers as the second most-winnable seat in the country for UKIP, but immigration is barely mentioned by candidate Tim Aker as he canvasses voters.

Instead, the strategy is to win-over residents by offering help with more mundane issues, such as broken boilers, mould and damp and weekly bin collections. “Our concern is their wellbeing,” said Chris Baker, a UKIP councillor, as he led a canvassing team in South Ockendon.

Much of Thurrock is deprived, and UKIP appears to be winning support from those out of work or unable to work. Its anti-establishment status resonates among voters alienated from mainstream politics.

“We have got an awful lot of people who have never voted before,” Mr Baker said. “They look at our issues and the way we go about things, and now they’re voting UKIP.”

Mr Aker, 29, is a UKIP councillor and MEP for the area. He plays up his local credentials – he is Thurrock born and bred – and tells voters that Labour candidate Polly Billington (a North Londoner who moved to Grays in 2011) and sitting Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price (who was born in Sheffield) are outsiders.

“The Conservatives won here [in 2010], but not because of any support for Cameron,” Mr Aker said. “They held their noses and voted for the person who was going to get Labour out. There is now a new option on the ballot paper, and people are coming to it.”

But Ms Doyle-Price insisted a UKIP victory was not on the cards. She predicted UKIP would gain no more that “a quarter” of the votes, with the winner gaining a third.

She promised to do all she could to stand up to UKIP. “These people are unpleasant,” she told me. “They have unlocked a nasty vein of prejudice in our country.

“The Conservative party has nothing in common with UKIP. I would rather stick pins in my eyes. They are not going to win here – not in a million years. They are very good at talking a good game and [the media] is buying it.

“The UKIP vote is the white working class in areas that were traditionally Labour. Local elections in the last year where UKIP made gains were in areas where you would traditionally weight the Labour vote.”

Ms Billington, who was selected as Labour candidate in 2011, followed 15 years at the BBC by becoming a press aide to Ed Miliband. Mr Aker says she refuses to debate the closure of Tilbury power station, which he claims is a legacy of Mr Miliband’s time as Energy Secretary. “It’s the behaviour of a parachuted-in candidate,” he said. “I’m not just here for the photo opportunity.”

The contest shows every sign of being fiesty. During the Standard’s visit, Mr Aker’s team found one voter, Kaye Pearson, 30, a single mother, who claimed to have been duped by Ms Billington into backing Labour and having a poster attached to her balcony.

She invited Mr Aker and Mr Baker into their home to ceremonially cut down the poster for the Standard’s photographer. “I’m going to hand-deliver it back to Labour,” Mr Aker said. “Keep Britain Tidy, and all that.”

Ms Billington denied she misled Ms Pearson. “Clearly she has changed her mind [about the poster],” she said. “I’m not going to exploit an individual voter. I think it’s pretty shoddy if UKIP are doing that in these circumstances.”

When Ms Billington was selected, the task looked easy for Labour. Ms Doyle-Price’s majority was only 92, and UKIP had won just 7.4 per cent of votes in 2010.

Ms Billington – who is wearing a grey plastic boot after breaking her right foot “exaggerating my stride” for a photographer – admits the rise of UKIP as an “opportunity to stick two fingers up to the political establishment”.

Edwina Aldwinckle, who will be voting UKIP, said: “I don’t like Labour and I don’t like the Conservatives. UKIP have got people who live round here doing a good job.

“People like us, we can not get better jobs, we can not get the houses. When people come over from different countries, they get dole money, they get our houses, they are getting all our benefits.”

Peter Perrin, a retired staff sergeant in the Royal Corps of Signals, backed UKIP for two reasons: “Controlling immigration, and the Veterans’ Charter.”

He said: “If we don’t maintain our freedoms, we will end up governed from another country, and those people who sacrificed their lives in two World Wars and before will be turning in their graves.”

Amanda Flatt, 36, was voting UKIP: “It’s the fact they are more for us guys than anybody else.” She added: “I used to vote Conservative but they have messed up the Government.”

John Archer was a lifelong Labour supporter but had deserted the party for UKIP: “The way the country is going, instead of going up, we are going down.”

Fred Morgan stopped his car to plead with Ms Billington to “tidy-up Tilbury” and tackle anti-social behaviour. Stuart Radford said he may “possibly” vote Labour after she pledged to address fly-tipping in a field beside his home and yobs who set fire to his wheelie-bins.

But Sharon McKinsey likes Nigel Farage and is backing UKIP. “I just want to give them a go,” she said. “He seems down to earth, in the pub smoking and drinking. It shows they care about us.”

Ms Billington insisted it was a three-way fight – a strong Tory vote could help her chances. She believes voters will desert UKIP nearer polling day when they focus on who they want as Prime Minister.

She makes a determined effort on doorsteps to challenge voters who say they are voting UKIP. The Labour door-knocking campaign is slick and Ms Billington comes across as a heavyweight political operator, a Government minister in the making.

She believes she has a duty to make voters aware of the consequences of backing UKIP – explaining its policies on the NHS, and the likely effect of helping David Cameron get back into No10. “I think you have got to do right by people,” she said.

She tells one voter: “I’m Labour because I have the same values as you. I want to narrow the gap between rich and poor.”

Voter John Archer asks why Labour does not support an EU referendum. “I think we can make Europe work for us,” Ms Billington said. “Nigel Farage would just walk us off into the Atlantic Ocean.”

She accuses Mr Aker of double-standards. “When you look at Tim Aker’s voting record in the European Parliament, he didn’t bother to turn up to vote against casualisation, including zero hours contracts. When he gets the opportunity, he fails working people.”

She continues: “For a lot of people here, they don’t want a Tory government. What really annoys me is that you can see the Shard and Canary Wharf from Thurrock, but for many people it might just as well be the Emerald City.”

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

Fifth west London hospital criticised by NHS watchdog – will problems worsen under A&E and maternity shake-up?


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A hospital facing an increased number of emergency patients and births under a controversial shake-up of A&Es and maternity departments was today criticised by the NHS watchdog.

West Middlesex hospital, in Isleworth, became the fifth west London NHS trust in a year to have its failings exposed by the Care Quality Commission – even before it has to deal with an influx of patients under the Shaping A Healthier Future plans.

Inspectors gave it a rating of “requires improvement” and said inadequate numbers of nurses and A&E consultants posed a risk to patient safety. 

But they found “good” care in a number of areas. The A&E department had a “calm and well-managed response to very heavy emergency demand”. The A&E and urgent care centre treat 137,000 patients a year.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said of the inspection, carried out last November and December: “We found that, while staff were caring and compassionate – and some were going the extra mile for patients, some of the services we looked at required improvement.

“Our overall findings highlight the level of variation that can be found within the same organisation.”

A shortage of more than 17 midwives and nine maternity assistants meant there was one midwife for every 36 births, compared to the national target of one for every 28.

Patients requiring admission from A&E to specialist wards waited an average of four hours 50 minutes – more than double the national average of two hours 20 minutes.

The hospital, which serves Richmond and Hounslow, is due to merge this summer with Chelsea and Westminster hospital and undergo a major rebuild in 2017/18 to cope with extra patients diverted as a result of the closure of neighbouring units under Shaping A Healthier Future.

West Middlesex chief executive Jacqueline Totterdell said: “Despite our obvious strengths and caring attitudes of staff, there are some areas requiring improvement. The report made clear the issues we must focus on and we have been working collaboratively with our health and social care colleagues to address some of these.”

London Ambulance Service marks 50th anniversary as former driver recalls career highlights



The London Ambulance Service marked its 50th anniversary today by showcasing huge advances in medical care – as one of its first drivers admitted many lives were lost because staff had little medical training.

Mark Bailey, 76, recalled working during the infancy of the service, when suited drivers and attendants with only basic first aid skills were required to “scoop and run” with patients to the nearest hospital.

Now university-educated paramedics are able to diagnose heart attacks, shock cardiac arrest patients back to life and can administer up to 30 different drugs – meaning many patients are treated at the scene.

“Years ago the training we had was minimal,” Mr Bailey said. “We were always aware, doing the job, that we needed more training than we got. We knew that we lost patients that could otherwise have been saved if we had the equipment.

“These modern ambulances are like miniature hospitals on wheels. It’s a far superior service now than the one in our day.”

Mr Bailey worked for Middlesex ambulance service prior to it becoming one of nine county services that merged to form the London Ambulance Service.

He recalled helping Spurs legend Dave Mackay, who died last month aged 80, after he broke his leg in a comeback reserve game against Shrewsbury Town in September 1964.

Mr Bailey said: “He broke his leg playing football at the Spurs football ground. We had the job of taking him home. By the time we arrived at the Prince of Wales hospital in Tottenham, all the Press was all around. They took lots of photographs.

“They appeared in all the Sunday newspapers but for one – the News of the World. I would have loved to have my picture in the News of the World – I could have dined out on that for years.”

A 1965 London Ambulance (Pic Tim Saunders/LAS)

A 1965 London Ambulance (Pic Tim Saunders/LAS)

The 1965 Morris Wandsworth ambulance used by Mr Bailey was equipped with just a stretcher, a splint, bandages, oxygen and carbon dioxide – used to “trick” the brain into kickstarting the lungs of a patient who had stopped breathing.

A 2015 London Ambulance (Pic: Tim Saunders/LAS)

A 2015 London Ambulance (Pic: Tim Saunders/LAS)

The 2015 Mercedes Sprinter ambulances have defibrillators to restart patients’ hearts and ECG machines to detect heart attacks. Crews are trusted to make “life or death” decisions on when to take patients to specialist trauma, stroke and cardiac hospitals.

LAS interim chief executive Fionna Moore said: “The kit, the drugs and the way we treat patients has changed beyond recognition. What has not changed is that people still come into the ambulance service because they’re committed to delivering high-quality care.”

Bakerloo extension via Camberwell more popular than via Old Kent Road



Bakerloo line extension

An extension of the Bakerloo line via Camberwell is more popular than an alternative route via Old Kent Road, it emerged today.

Transport for London said 96 per cent of the 15,000 people responding to a consultation backed the idea of extending the Tube from Elephant and Castle further into south-east London.

An option of taking the line via a new Tube station at Camberwell and the train station at Peckham Rye was backed by 64 per cent – while the alternative route via two new Tube stations on Old Kent Road got 49 per cent support.

The route would then link the train stations at New Cross Gate, Lewisham and Catford Bridge before branching off to Beckenham Junction – and possibly on to Bromley – or Elmers End and Hayes.

No funding has been set aside for the £3 billion plans, and work is unlikely to begin until 2025 at the earliest and could take a decade to complete. An extension of the Bakerloo line was first mentioned in 1921.

TfL said there would be further consultation on more detailed route options later this year – including other alternatives suggested by respondents.

TfL said it was “investigating a range of options” with borough councils along the route on how to generate funding.

Boris Johnson said: “It is fantastic that so many people are in support of the plans and I am determined to push ahead with them at pace. The extension has huge potential to breathe a new lease of life into south London’s ‘opportunity areas’.”

London Ambulance staff offered new car deals to raise worst-ever levels of morale


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Story from Evening Standard, March 26, 2015

Story from Evening Standard, March 26, 2015

London Ambulance staff are to be offered new cars in a bid to reverse plummeting morale and prevent them quitting their jobs.

Almost one in five paramedic posts in the capital are vacant – leading to the worst 999 response times in the country and leaving the remaining staff stressed and burned-out.

Ambulance chiefs this week approved an eight-point plan to retain staff and attract former and new employees to the service, with a “salary sacrifice” scheme to lease a car among the proposed incentives.

It comes after 225 job offers were made last week to Australian paramedics to join the London Ambulance Service, in addition to the 175 who were recruited last September.

Concerted action was ordered to improve staff conditions after the annual NHS staff survey found high and rising levels of dissatisfaction among front-line crews and support staff at London Ambulance Service.

A total of 62 per cent of LAS staff said they would not recommend it as a place to work, while 35 per cent said they would be concerned if a friend or relative received medical care.

The details of the staff survey and incentives for staff are contained in the March 2015 LAS board papers.

Dr Fionna Moore, LAS interim chief executive, said of the staff survey: “We have never seen results as poor as this.”

An internal report said some staff suffered “bullying”, and found a “negative culture” that was “strong and growing”. Leavers said their treatment at work, rather than low pay, was the main reason for them to quit.

Other staff initiatives include a cycle to work scheme, help with affordable housing and discounts on computers and mobile phones. There will be “stress management programmes”, a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying and harassment, flexible working hours and newer ambulances.

Last September LAS staff ranked the organisation the worst in the NHS in the first Friends and Family tests.

LAS chairman Richard Hunt told the trust board it was time to “draw a line in the sand” to prevent morale and the vacancy rate worsening. He said: “What we are trying to do here is create an organisation that people want to stay working for, and come back and work for.”

Last month the LAS arrived at 67.1 per cent of the most serious calls, and 58.7 per cent of second-priority emergencies, within eight minutes. The 75 per cent NHS target is not expected to be met until the Autumn.

The service is 330 paramedics short of target but has for the first time recently seen the number of arrivals outweigh those leaving. There were 1,363 front-line paramedics in post in January.

A trial to give call dispatchers extra time to assess a 999 call before sending an emergency response is to be extended for a further month, the board was told.

London hospital to lead trials to save babies that stop growing in the womb


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Groundbreaking trials aimed at saving babies that have stopped growing in the womb are set to begin in London next year.

The study at University College Hospital could give hope to parents of premature babies at risk of being stillborn, dying soon after birth or being born seriously disabled.

About eight in every 100 pregnancies – about 70,000 a year in the UK – is affected by fetal growth restriction. There is no treatment or way of predicting or preventing the devastating condition, which is generally spotted at around 20 weeks.

Parents face a stark choice of delivering their baby early in the knowledge it may die in intensive care, or allowing the pregnancy to continue with the risk of the baby dying in the womb.

The Everrest project, backed by a EU grant of almost six million euros, will enable pregnant women to participate in trials at four hospitals across Europe – UCLH, Barcelona, Hamburg and Lund, in Sweden.

It will study the “severe early onset” of fetal growth problems, where the foetus’s projected weight is less than 600g (1lb 5oz). This occurs in about one in 500 pregnancies.

Women whose baby is discovered at about 20 weeks not to be growing in the womb will be offered the chance to participate in the study and undergo treatment.
This will involve injecting a protein known as VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) into the women’s uterine arteries to increase the blood supply to the placenta, hopefully overcoming so-called “placental insufficiency” and indirectly benefiting her unborn child.

The procedure seeks to stimulate the mother’s natural ability to grow a child, rather than attempt a riskier process of trying to treat the foetus directly.

The condition is caused by a lack of nutrients and oxygen being passed from the mother’s blood to the baby in the womb, via the placenta.

Babies who survive severely restricted growth in the womb are at risk of being born with cerebral palsy, and of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life.

Dr Anna David, of UCL Institute for Women’s Health, told a UCL lecture to mark International Women’s Day earlier this month: “I think there is a huge unmet clinical need. We see one woman every two weeks at UCLH who has this very severe form [of fetal growth restriction]. There are many more who have babies who are moderately growth-restricted. The potential benefit of treatment is very high.”

Securing relatively small increases in the weight of the foetus and time spent in the womb can have disproportionate benefits. Each extra day in the womb between 24 and 27 weeks gives a two per cent increase in survival rate. Increasing birthweight by 100g reduces the risk of death by 40 per cent.

Subject to ethical and regulatory approval, these will be the first in-human tests. Preliminary tests on donated placentas, and in sheep and guinea pigs, have shown positive results.

Dr David said: “Parents welcome the option for treatment for severe onset fetal growth restriction. There is nothing out there at the moment that will improve the outcome for them or their baby.”

London hospitals are £300 million in debt


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Today I report in the Evening Standard that London’s 19 NHS trusts that run the capital’s 28 A&Es are expected to post a cumulative debt of about £300 million for the 2014/15 financial year.

Using figures published in each trust’s most recent board papers, I discovered that 13 were expected to post defecits, one was expected to break even – Epsom and St Helier, though it was most recently £3 million in debt – and six were expected to make a profit (or “surplus”).

The figures are listed below:

Barts Health -£93 million

London North West Healthcare -£55.9 million

King’s College -£40 million

Barking, Havering and Redbridge -£38 million

Croydon -£24 million

UCLH -£14.2 million

Lewisham and Greenwich -£10 million

Royal Free -£8 million

West Middlesex -£7.9 million

Whittington -£7.4 million

St George’s -£5.5 million

Hillingdon -£1 million

Kingston -£800,000

Epsom and St Helier (Break even)

North Middlesex +£100,000

Homeron +£2 million

Chelsea and Westminster +£2.2 million

Guy’s and St Thomas’s +£3 million

Imperial College +£11 million


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