From Westminster Bridge to Grenfell Tower: London doctors reveal emotional impact of dealing with major incidents

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Emergency doctors have spoken of the emotional impact of treating the victims of the Grenfell Tower inferno.

Staff at St Mary’s, in Paddington, have been among the hardest hit, with the hospital admitting a total of 28 casualties from last week’s fire and the terror attacks on Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Helgi Johannsson saw Grenfell Tower ablaze from his balcony after being wakened at 3am last Wednesday morning.

Dr Helgi Johannsson

In a blog on the British Medical Journal website, he wrote: “Being able to see the sheer scale of the fire when I woke up made the tragedy much more real, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach as I drove into the hospital.

“We treated a lot of children at St Mary’s and I know many of my colleagues are still extremely upset about what they saw—trainees and highly experienced consultants alike.

“At the time of writing some of the individuals are being identified, their stories being told and the scale of the human tragedy is becoming apparent. I am much more emotionally affected now then I was on the day of the incident.

“Some would say we must remain emotionally detached and equate that with professionalism, but I am human. I saw this tragedy unfold out of my window, and I feel I am a better doctor for giving myself permission to stop, reflect on what has happened, and to grieve.”

St Mary’s response to the Westminster terror attack can be seen in the BBC2 documentary, Hospital, at 9pm tonight [Tuesday].

Speaking at a preview screening last Thursday, Shehan Hettiaratchy, lead trauma surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, told the Standard that one of his colleagues featured in the documentary was struggling to deal with the number of atrocities.

Mr Hettiaratchy said: “They said to me: ‘I’m getting towards the end of what I can cope with.’”

Dr Philip Lee

Dr Philip Lee, an acute physician at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, which admitted 25 fire casualties, said he had experienced the “worst, hardest week I’ve ever had as a doctor”.

He tweeted: “I hope as long as I live I’ll never have to witness or deal with any incident like this again. But we’ll learn, and be ready. Because that’s what we do, that’s why we’re here.

“Some of the stories I’ve heard, tales of heroism from fire crews and members of the public, the impossible choices and decisions.

“My admiration for the courage of firefighters and police, and what they’ve seen and had to do. These men and women are the real heroes.”

Dr Johannsson, in the BMJ blog, also revealed how the use of WhatsApp had helped St Mary’s to deliver better care during major incidents.

“One of our key learning points from the Westminster attack was not to overload the coordinating consultant with offers of help,” he wrote.

“I set up a major incident WhatsApp group which was initially met by some puzzled looks, but after two further major incidents it has proved invaluable. Fast mass communication, the ability to coordinate our response, and being able to plan the service for later on that day vastly improved the care we were able to provide.

“WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption and therefore is confidential as long as you know whose phone is in the group, and it has a passcode. It is widely used in communication within NHS teams already, yet officially it is prohibited on information governance grounds. Is it time for the NHS to take the opportunities that this kind of technology offers and incorporate it into our everyday practice?”

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London nurse tells of emergency care given to victims of Grenfell Tower fire

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A nurse today told how a patient revealed she had called a relative to “say goodbye” because she feared she was going to die in the Grenfell Tower inferno.

Daniel Almeida, 30, a charge nurse at the Royal Free in Hampstead, said he feared for the long-term mental health of the victims, such was the emotional impact of the blaze.

“One patient made a phone call while in the building to the relative to say goodbye,” he told the Standard.

“It’s quite frightening. You don’t know what sort of consequences there will be, or what will happen in the future, after these sort of things.”

Daniel Almeida at the Royal Free

Charge nurse Daniel Ameida at the Royal Free: “It was only when we started to have the blood results back that we realised that some of them were really, really sick.

The Royal Free received 12 patients, including children. All were suffering from smoke inhalation rather than burns. Several, including a child, had to be anaesthetised and intubated to allow their breathing to be controlled artificially. By last night, eight of the 12 patients had recovered sufficiently to be discharged.

Mr Almeida said one of the most difficult things was dealing with families that had become separated in the blaze, including a mother who was desperately searching for her child.

“We had a patient, and luckily this was one of the patients we could clear from a medical point of view quickly, who in the middle of all the chaos had lost her young child.

“Obviously the patient was not even thinking about her own health. It was all about the child.

“We tried to help as much as we could, and liaised with the LAS [London Ambulance Service] to get them information. You still feel helpless.” He did not know if the mother and child were reunited.

When the major incident was declared, people waiting in A&E were asked to go home unless their condition was life-threatening and the team of about 16 nurses and five doctors prepared for an influx of patients with burns and breathing difficulties.

No burns patients arrived – a situation believed to be true of all six London hospitals that treated more than 70 casualties.

Mr Almeida said: “We mainly had exposure to smoke and smoke inhalation. What is very important in this situation is to have a quick reading of their carbon monoxide levels. That involves a blood test.

“These patients all came in by ambulance and were already on oxygen. Depending on the [carbon monoxide] values, we would decide where to put these patients in terms of their severity and potential to deteriorate.

“They were shocked, generally speaking. They were not particularly talking too much, but at the same time they were disclosing some information to us when we were assessing them.

“It’s a thin line with what you are going to say to these patients, because you know what they have been through. We need to give them as much support as they want.

“Clearly the patients were in shock. They don’t even retain half of the information you give them.

“When they come to us, we do our best to help them. When the patients started to come in, they were in shock but they didn’t look particularly unwell. It was only when we started to have the blood results back that we realised that some of them were really, really sick.

“That is when we started to have close monitoring of some of the sicker ones and we have taken the decision to intubate some of them to avoid problems down the line.

“The benefits of intubation is that we can control the rhythm and depth and pressure of their breathing. They go to intensive care for this.

“We had a [staff] debriefing and I think everybody was quite happy how things went. We got these 12 patients but we were ready for way more. Luckily we didn’t get more. The main thing the staff were saying was that we help them medically but we were worried about the mental aspect of things. We can get them better medically but what is going to happen in the rest of their life?”

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

Doctors  at cyber attack hospital used What’sApp groups to marshal response to London Bridge attack  

A doctor today spoke of his pride that all 12 seriously injured victims of the London Bridge attack who were treated at the Royal London hospital had been saved.

Malik Ramadhan, who rushed back to work to run the major trauma centre’s resuscitation unit on Saturday night, said the patients benefited from “gold-standard care” in Europe’s biggest hospital.

This included world-leading advances in treating major haemorrhage that has seen one patient a week at the hospital survive injuries that would have been fatal a decade ago.

“Of the 12 we received, they have all survived,” Dr Ramadhan told the Standard. “Very unexpected things happen. I think the last person who was intubated [put on artificial breathing support] was extubated [on Tuesday].

“I think they have had interventions that we use every day. I think they are interventions that other hospitals don’t have available to them. That is the whole point of the major trauma centre. We have got a much better understanding of the order in which we transfuse blood products.”

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the hospital, in Whitechapel, to meet patients and thank the staff. 



Dr Ramadhan had been cycling home after his shift on Saturday night when he saw a convoy of police cars racing north on Old Kent Road. He called a friend to ask what was happening. “She rang back and said you should pedal as fast as you could to work,” he said.

As staff flooded back, a trauma team was assembled for each of the eight resus bays – an emergency medicine doctor, an anaesthetist, an ODP (operating department practitioner, a surgeon, an orthopaedic surgeon and two nurses.

Such was the response from staff that he had 10 A&E consultants, five to six surgeons and a similar number of anaesthetists more than he required to form the trauma teams.

Six patients were taken direct to theatre for life-saving interventions. Another five underwent surgery the next day.

“We could see how some patients had been hit by something and some had been stabbed,” he said. “We got one shooting. I didn’t know what had been going on. I went home at 3.30am, got home at 4am, and turned on the telly. At that point they were saying 20 patients were involved, at five hospitals. I thought, well, we have got 12 badly injured people, which suggested there was a lot more than 20. The next morning they were saying 48, and six dead. 

“At the time, it wasn’t relevant. My job is to make sure we are ready to see the next, and the next, and the next… if it gets to 150, how do we get to 200?”



He told how the Royal London had been preparing for a terrorist atrocity since the suicide attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre. This included guarding against a secondary attack on the hospital itself as it treated casualties.

“Each thing that has happened reinforced to me that it was going to happen to us at some point,” he said.

“With Westminster Bridge, we were not particularly involved [in treating casualties]. But we looked at that and I thought: supposing that happens and there are 50 on the bridge, what would we do?

“The point the Government escalated the terror alert level [after the Manchester bombing] got me thinking they must know something. We did a lot of thinking, including thinking about secondary targets. If they are blowing up children, the next step is schools and hospitals. Sometimes they attack the hospital the victims have been taken to.”

He said they feared that with 50 shots being fired on Saturday night they could have a similar number of casualties.

“With 50 shots fired, there was the assumption early on that lots of people would be injured. We didn’t know who had the guns. 

“I don’t think 12 patients is a particularly big challenge for the Royal London. We regularly have 12 trauma calls over a night shift. Twelve at once is different. Twelve over a 12-hours period is not unusual. We see 3,500 poly-trauma patients a year – where there is trauma in more than one part of the body.”

Ironically, the recent cyber attack on the NHS, in which the hospital’s parent trust, Barts Health, was the worst affected in the country, helped to speed the response to the London Bridge atrocity.

Junior doctors and consultants had set up What’sApp and mobile text groups to get round the problem of having no access to their NHS email. This meat that alerts spread instantaneously on smartphones as off-duty staff alerted each other to the need to come to work.

“When people talks about What’sApp and how the terrorists use it to talk and how we’ve got to stop it, it makes me smile,” he said. “We were pretty much relying on What’sApp to get all the staff in.”

He is on constant alert for the next attack. “I’m worrying about Thursday [the General Election]. Then I will worry about the weekend. Then I will worry about the weekend after that.

“Let’s just make sure it absolutely doesn’t happen again. I’m thinking – Westminster Bridge, Manchester, London Bridge, all within two months.

“If we did it again [tomorrow], that would put a bit more strain on us. People are a bit tired. If this becomes a regular occurrence then relying on goodwill probably isn’t enough.”

* An edited version of this article appeared in tonight’s Evening Standard (below)

NHS response to London Bridge: How staff at St Thomas’ hospital handled second terror attack in months 

Staff at the hospital closest to the Westminster Bridge attack were “shocked and depressed” by the copycat atrocity on London Bridge, a senior medic said today.

Doctors and nurses ran out of St Thomas’ hospital to treat victims run over by a car driven by Khalid Masood in March.

The hospital was back on the front line on Saturday night, receiving nine victims injured on London Bridge and Borough Market – the first brought in by police as the incident began to unfold.

Dr Katherine Henderson, clinical lead for the emergency department at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, said: “I think everyone was shocked and deeply depressed that it was happening again. 

“The Westminster event was not that long ago. Borough Market is very near. It’s at the heart of our patient population. It’s at the heart of where we go out and socialise. It’s our patch that has been hit now by two events.”

One of the eight people killed was Kirsty Boden, 28, a staff nurse at St Thomas’ sister hospital, Guy’s. She was stabbed to death after rushing to help one of the victims.

Four patients were admitted with serious injuries, two undergoing surgery that night. Doctors, alerted by What’s App message groups, rushed back. Dr Henderson had been at home near the Globe theatre and cycled back to the hospital.


“Patients were incredibly calm and supportive of each other,” she said. “There was one point when I walked through the discharge area. They were all talking to each other and providing a bit of support to each other.”

She said the attack brought back memories of the Soho nail bomb, when two were killed and 30 injured at the Admiral Duncan pub in 1999.

“It’s not to do with the severity of the injuries, but the reason behind it,” she said. “Somebody has randomly decided to injure total strangers. This is not gang warfare. It’s not domestic violence. This is someone who has made a choice who has made a decision to injure people they know nothing about. 

“It reminded me of the nail bomb, back in the day – that horrible desire to hurt people. That is why terrorism is so shocking. Just as that nail bomb was so shocking, again we are seeing people who were out having a nice evening. It’s shocking to have to treat people that have been injured like that.”

* An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard (above)

Air ambulance doctor: bystanders ran length of London Bridge carrying casualties to us

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The first doctor on scene at London Bridge today spoke of the “loving” response from Londoners and emergency responders as they rushed to help the victims.

Dr Chris Lambert, 46, an emergency doctor with London’s Air Ambulance, told of “extraordinary” scenes as people ran the length of the bridge carrying badly injured casualties to medics.

He said the willingness of members of the public to be good samaritans felt as though the “love not hate” message started after the Manchester bombing was being acted upon, even as the capital was hit by a new atrocity.

“I think I really saw some of that on the night – love being shown to complete strangers by those bystanders and professionals on the scene,” Dr Lambert told the Evening Standard.

“There were a number of casualties brought across the bridge, each one carried by four, five, six people, which is not an easy thing to do. They were using whatever means they could. Some had carry sheets provided by the ambulance service.

“It’s very inspiring to see the courage of people not to run away but to pick up victims and help them to a place of safety.

“It’s an image, a memory, that will stay with me – that courage, and people performing CPR and doing everything they could to help.

“We had various bystanders, some with no medical background at all, being very composed and calm and reassuring to the patients, which made a big difference.

“We had a group of junior doctors, maybe on an evening out. They offered up their skills. They were really helpful on the scene. They were able to alert me if something was changing with the patient they were looking after.

“It was inspiring to see young doctors putting themselves at risk and going the extra mile. I never got the opportunity but I do want to put out my thanks, and to everybody at the scene.”

Dr Lambert was accompanied by Dr Michael Christian, a doctor who recently joined the air ambulance from Canada, and Tracy Porter, an emeritus paramedic from London Ambulance Service. They were one of six London’s Air Ambulance trauma teams deployed on the night.

LAS commanders set up a command point on the north side of the bridge, making it easier to assess casualties. See here for the story of the first LAS paramedic on the scene, Gary Edwards.

“We had some victims with knife wounds, some victims with more blunt injuries which you would get from contact with a van,” Dr Lambert said.

He instructed the first aiders to keep talking to the victims. “I told them: If the patient stops talking or becomes quiet, then please let me know. Then I can step in.

“The decision that was key was to grab people in whatever state they were in and take them to a place of safety. That meant that the patients I had in front of me were in quite a tight huddle. It’s easier to move between them.”

At one point, they had to move to another area amid fears they were in danger. He said the presence of the police and security forces meant he felt “very well protected and very safe”.

He said: “On Saturday night the response was excellent. I was really, really impressed. We work every day with the LAS. I felt there was a stepping up a gear. There was a very professional, very well-run response. All the right procedures were put in place to get patients to safety as quickly as possible. It felt a privilege to be part of.”

London’s Air Ambulance, which operates a helicopter during daylight and fast-response cars at night, needs about £6.4 million a year in charity donations to keep running.

Dr Chris Lambert

Dr Chris Lambert on responding to the London Bridge attack: “It felt a privilege to be part of.”

Dr Lambert, formerly an emergency physician at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, said: “The main challenge in an incident like this for us is to shift the way we work. We are trained to work in a very detailed way with one patient. It’s that shift of approach to oversee a number of patients to make sure each one gets what they need.

“We make sure the most unwell are stabilised. If we had a patient who was deteriorating, we could quickly do some simple interventions before they go to hospital.”

He added: “One of the things I found moving from relatives of victims is this message of being determined not to hate these people, but respond with love. – this ‘love not hate’ message.

“I felt I experienced that on the night. Just reflecting on it on a personal level, if we as a country can respond by just continuing to show love then, on an ideological level, then whatever is thrown at us, if we continue to respond with love, hopefully the ideology behind these attacks can’t win.”

An edited version of this article appeared in today’s Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/doctors-praise-for-strangers-who-carried-victims-the-length-of-london-bridge-after-terror-attack-a3560006.html


Parents take the lead in caring for premature babies in pioneering NHS project

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Parents of premature babies are being encouraged to take the lead in providing their child’s hospital care under a pioneering initiative launched in London.

The project at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea and St Mary’s hospitals has been imported from Canada, where it has been found to improve the child’s brain function, weight gain and allow them to be discharged home earlier.

In a UK first, parents are taught how to monitor, wash and feed their child – including how to check nasogastric tubes – and administer medication under the guidance of health professionals. They also take responsibility for updating the consultant on their child’s progress during daily ward rounds.

The first five babies have been recruited at Queen Charlotte’s, in Acton. Parents said it was “fantastic” and helped them to overcome the shock of having their child born much earlier than planned.

A free iPhone and iPad app provides vital information and allows them to take notes and pictures of their child’s daily development. The IFDC (Integrated Family Delivered Care) app has been downloaded hundreds of times as other hospitals look to copy the initiative, which was funded by Imperial Health Charity and took two years to develop.

Dr Jay Banerjee, a consultant neonatologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, said the new approach moved away from the perception that premature babies were “too fragile” to be handled by parents.

He said: “We are trying to end this separation between the parents and babies, and ask the parents to look after their baby right from the beginning as part of the care-giving team.

“It encourages the baby’s rate of weight gain, it reduces the duration of their stay in hospital and it may reduce infection rates. It reduces the stress and anxiety of parents.”

About one in 11 babies are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks’ gestation – about 60,000 a year in the UK. Imperial’s two specialist units treat about 1,000 premature babies a year, including some born as early as 23 or 24 weeks.

There is a national shortage of neonatal nurses but the doctors stressed that the project was not about using parents to plug workforce gaps. Parents get involved once their baby is judged “medically stable” and, after training, look after them for six to eight hours a day.

Consultant Dr Aniko Deierl said: “If you have a very engaged parent, they are going to pick up these skills and learn better. This is helping them to take responsibility. We see the parents as part of the neonatal team.”

Vaidya family

Jenny and Alex Vaidya with baby Jack

Alex and Jenny Vaidya’s first child, Jack, was born at Queen Charlotte’s a month ago, aged 29 weeks and five days, when she went into labour suddenly as the couple, from Chiswick, were about to head to France on holiday.

Mr Vaidya, 34, an IT entrepreneur, said: “We were thrown in at the deep end. We had no concept of what this would be like – the NCT classes were thrown out the window. Being able to get involved has helped enormously.”

Mrs Vaidya, 33, a charity fundraising manager, said: “If we were left to having just the last couple of days, when suddenly you were told what to do yourself and then go home, it would be so overwhelming.

“Doing everything from the very beginning means you have got that bond from very early on, and you just feel more confident. You get to know the baby so much better.”

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

Life sciences campus in Whitechapel to boost health and UK economy post-Brexit

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Plans have been unveiled for a £300 million health science campus that aims to deliver a long-term health boost to the East End and attract global investment to the UK after Brexit.

Queen Mary, University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust will build a life sciences institute alongside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel.

Life sciences brochure

Scientists and doctors will work with patients to develop new treatments, focusing on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and trauma, drawing on the Royal London’s status as a major trauma centre.

The aim is to deliver new treatments and therapies more quickly to the 2.5 million East Enders who rely on Barts’ five hospitals, while using the area’s genetic diversity as a “test bed” for medical breakthroughs of potential global significance.

The institute will be built on land left derelict following the rebuilding of the Royal London, which was completed in 2012. A masterplan has been submitted to Tower Hamlets council and industry backers are being sought.

The institute will expand work already being done by the university and would open in stages over the next five to 10 years, eventually supporting up to 11,500 jobs. The first 10 fellowships will be offered later this year.

Professor Rakesh Uppal, director of life sciences at Barts Health, said: “It’s going to fundamentally change how we interact with our patients, and help patients to look after themselves.”

Research will be targeted on genetic health – understanding why individuals get sick and allowing tailored medicines to be created – and artificial intelligence, which involves using devices to monitor a person’s health and send alerts.

It would offer a new kind of clinical trial – adapting treatments depending on how the patient was reacting. “What companies are looking for are places where they can come in and interact with patients and clinicians, so they don’t develop new technologies which don’t serve a purpose,” Professor Uppal said.

“Any of the trials we do in this area, we can apply globally. We have got the gene pool of the world on our doorstep.”

life sciences aerial pic

Aerial view of the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel

The focus would be different to the Francis Crick Institute, which opened in King’s Cross last year and is focused on “early discovery science”.

Professor Simon Gaskell, principal of QMUL, said: “The Crick is doing wonderful work in terms of basic discovery. What we do at Whitechapel will have a much more immediate effect on clinical treatment than the work being done at the Crick.

“The really crucial bit of this is that the local population has quite severe health needs in an underprivileged part of town. There are going to be scientific developments which have both national and international significance.”

He said the institute would have an “absolutely critical” role post-Brexit in helping to “lock-in” global companies to the UK.

“Very senior figures in national government recognise the significance of this,” Professor Gaskell said. “These are companies that can go anywhere they like in the world. They go where they find the best return, not just the financial return but the intellectual return.”

Dr Charlie Davie, managing director of UCL Partners, which champions pioneering healthcare in north east London, said the research focus on patient involvement was a “breath of fresh air”.

He said: “What we are trying to do is discover the truly transformational or disruptive innovations that are going to change healthcare for the better – issues like living with long-term conditions, healthy ageing and how to make healthcare cost effective.”

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

Cyclists want Old Street to Oxford Street route to become London’s first ‘healthy street’

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Plans have been unveiled to link the East End and West End with London’s first “healthy street”.

London Cycling Campaign is calling for a radical transformation of the so-called “London Boulevard” route from Old Street to Oxford Street via Clerkenwell Road and Theobalds Road.

London Boulevard

It wants to transform the “third busiest” cycle route in central London into a safer and less polluted two-mile stretch, with a “cafe society” al-fresco atmosphere to and make it more attractive for pedestrians.

An estimated 7,000 cyclists use the east-west route each day – with more than 1,000 during the morning rush hour – despite high levels of traffic and high collision rates.

London Boulevard map
The LCC believes its vision fits perfectly with Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Healthy Streets policy, which seeks to improve air quality, reduce congestion and make public spaces more attractive for residents and businesses.

It would also link with long-standing proposals for Old Street roundabout, which would convert one of London’s busiest gyratories into a two way lay-out, enabling the centre of the roundabout to be transformed and boosting the area’s status as “Tech City”.

London Boulevard impression

Simon Munk, LCC’s infrastructure campaigner, admitted there was a “long way to go” before there were spades in the ground, but said the aim was to provide support for schemes from Transport for London and Camden and Islington councils.

“This is an area of London that has a huge amount going for it, but a huge amount of problems,” he said. “Tottenham Court Road station is being transformed by Crossrail and there is the Mayor’s pedestrianisation of Oxford Street to come.

“This [route] is one of the busiest roads in London but it’s incredibly polluted and insanely noisy. The knock-on effect of pedestrianising Oxford Street is going to be huge. There is a huge opportunity to look again at the streets east of Oxford Street.”

The plans were welcomed by Victoria Lebrec, 26, who lost a leg after being run over by a skip lorry as she cycled to work on Clerkenwell Road in December 2014. She only survived when London Air Ambulance medics performed a pioneering procedure to stop her bleeding to death on the roadside.

She said: “It’s really exciting to see the plans. So many people have lost their lives or had catastrophic injuries on this route and I’m so pleased something is being done about it. At peak times it’s used predominantly by cyclists and the road should cater for them. I just hope that they’re implemented sooner rather than later because the longer it’s left the more people are going to lose their lives.”
The Mayor has yet to decide if cyclists will be allowed to use the pedestrianised Oxford Street. If cyclists are banned, LCC wants a high-quality parallel route.

Old Street peninsula

Plans for Old Street involve closing one side of the roundabout to create a “peninsula”

At Old Street, TfL proposals first consulted on two years ago – to create a “peninsula” in the centre of the junction by closing the roundabout’s north-east side – are understood to be moving forward.

The London Boulevard route is believed to be behind only the East-West and North-South cycle superhighways in terms of the number of daily cyclists. The LCC says it has a vital role in helping to keep the city moving.

Ashok Sinha, LCC chief executive, said: “We know that over the next decade and a half, we are going to add the equivalent of the population of Birmingham to the number of people living in this city.

“The number of people working in the centre of town is going to increase by 40 per cent. How are we going to keep people moving? What if we were to transform that stretch into a clean, green corridor that links the two parts of the city.”

Ben Plowden, director of surface strategy and planning at TfL, said: “We welcome any ideas that could improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians while also improving the air quality and feel of London’s roads. We’d be interested in hearing further from the local authorities and key stakeholders.”

The Mayor‘s spokesman said: “As we continue with our ambitious plans to get more Londoners walking and cycling, we will look closely at the details of the London Boulevard plans. The use of innovative technology to bring ideas to life will also help engage more people in thinking about the future of our transport network.

“We are pushing ahead with our bold vision for ‘Healthy Streets’ in the heart of central London and extended cycle routes connecting key parts of the city are an important part of this. We continue to work with the relevant boroughs and key groups like the London Cycling Campaign to ensure improvements are the very best they can be.”

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

Reunited: driver in 100mph motorway crash thanks medics who helped save his life

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A mechanic has been reunited with the emergency medics who helped save his life after a 100mph car crash on the M1 motorway.

They treated Storm Warner, 22, on the scene – with his car exploding around them as it caught fire – before rushing him to the major trauma centre at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington.

He was transferred to Hammersmith hospital for emergency surgery on his liver – losing 45 per cent of the organ in the crash – and spent almost a month in a coma. Doctors later told him he was “lucky to be alive”.

Mr Warner was reunited with Laura Wallace, Phil Smith, Emily Wallis and Julia Horswell of East of England Ambulance Service after his appeal to find his life-savers was spotted by Ms Wallace’s friend, Susanna Trow, a London Ambulance cycle paramedic, in the Standard last month.

Mr Warner, who believes he fell asleep at the wheel or blacked out, said on meeting them at Hemel Hempstead ambulance station: “I asked everyone: what gift do you bring? How do you thank someone for saving your life? You can’t.

“I appreciate it so much. My family appreciate if even more. It still hasn’t sunk in.  My family and friends were devastated. A friend said: ‘I thought you were gone.'”

The crash happened about 1.30am on June 9 last year as Mr Warner drove home to Dunstable after a night out in north London. He has no recollection of the incident near junction eight but has been told that traffic was being diverted into the fast lane as a result of roadworks when he hit the rear of a slow-moving trailer lorry while speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.

Paramedic Ms Wallace, 31, was first on scene in a fast-response car, closely followed by duty officer Mr Smith, 44. They were quickly joined by emergency medical technicians Ms Wallis, 27, and Ms Horswell, 34.

Ms Wallace said she could see the smoke rising from the car as she approached. Two lorry drivers are thought to have pulled Mr Warner from his car, which had collided with the central reservation. He was lying on the road in massive pain with a broken ankle and was “very agitated”.

She said: “There were a number of explosions from the car a couple of minutes later, which I assume was the fuel tank.” Mr Smith said: “Metal flew off into the side of my car.

“It was a chaotic scene. Storm wasn’t being the most cooperative at the time, not surprisingly. You can imagine what his body went through when you see the damage to the vehicle.”

Ms Wallis said they could see the crash on the opposite carriageway as they raced south from Luton. “We saw the fire and thought: ‘Oh my God.'”

They provided intravenous morphine for pain relief and refused to allow him to urinate, correctly fearing this would worsen any internal injuries by reducing his blood pressure. After about 45 minutes on scene, he was blue-lighted to St Mary’s in 40 minutes.

Mr Warner also suffered a punctured lung, a fractured hip, facial injuries and several broken ribs.

The medics said they rarely got to meet patients they helped save.

“We didn’t really know the extent of his injuries at the time,” Ms Wallace said. “It’s fantastic to see I’m doing so well.”

Ms Wallis said: “It’s quite a hazardous situation to be in. The crucial thing was to get him to hospital as quickly as possible.

“To begin with, you do fear the worst. It’s not every day we go to a road traffic accident where the car is still ablaze. It’s something I have not come across before. The adrenaline is going in that situation. I think it is one of the worst I have been to.”

Storm Warner at Hemel Hempstead ambulance station

Storm Warner: “I appreciate how lucky I am.”

Mr Warner was discharged after three months and surprised doctors by getting back on his feet, with the aid of crutches, by September.

Earlier this month he did an unaccompanied skydive to raise in excess of £1,000 for Imperial Health charity, which supports the medical care at St Mary’s and Hammersmith hospital.

He said: “I appreciate how lucky I am. I don’t speed any more. It has affected how close I am with my family. I used to be very distant and use the house as a hotel. Now I make more effort to see my parents and my sisters.

“One thing my dad said was: ‘All that National Insurance I have paid has paid off. They said I was having four or five scans a day.”

Lawyer recovers girlfriend’s stolen bike after spotting it advertised on Gumtree

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Charlie with the bike

Charlie Jacobs, in medical boot, after recovering the stolen bike

A lawyer said he was forced to turn “vigilante” to recover his girlfriend’s stolen bike after police failed to respond to nine requests for help.

Charlie Jacobs, 31, spotted the bike being advertised on Gumtree and forced the teenager who was selling it to hand it back after posing as a buyer and turning up at his house.

Mr Jacobs first noticed the black Condor road bike was missing from outside the Islington home he shares with tech designer girlfriend Anneke Glasius, 29, on Easter Monday, April 17.

She had bought it for £400 about 10 days earlier – to use on their cycling holiday in France this summer – after seeing it advertised on Gumtree and checking it was being sold by its legitimate owner.

The bike had been locked to a rack in a gated area outside their home but the thief cut through the rack to remove it.

Solicitor Charlie Jacobs and partner Anneke Glasius turned detec

Charlie and Anneke with the recovered bike. Picture by Nigel Howard

Mr Jacobs, a partner at Jacobs Allen Hammond solicitors, reported the theft to the Metropolitan police but was told the following day there would be no investigation because the theft was not caught on CCTV.

An officer told him to keep an eye on online sites. He found it being sold for £500 on Gumtree two days later by a seller named John from Leytonstone.

The police said they were “uninterested” unless he had a full address and advised him to feign interest to obtain John’s home details. John asked “which one?” when asked about the bike – and could not meet until the evening as he “had school”.

Mr Jacobs said he became “utterly frustrated” after three further calls with the police, during which he was advised not to confront the seller.

Wearing a protective boot after ankle ligament surgery, he set off with Ms Glasius and two friends to John’s home.

John turned out to be “no more than 16”. He claimed he had bought the bike the previous day on Gumtree but was selling it because it was “too fast”. John’s father demanded proof that the bike belonged to Ms Glasius before allowing it to be handed over.

Mr Jacobs said: “I have got a lot of sympathy for the police. They clearly don’t have enough bobbies on the beat. But at the same time I felt I spent a lot of time on the telephone, getting more and more reference numbers. It seemed a vast misallocation of resources – they have everyone on the phone and no-one out solving crimes.”

He described the recovery of the bike as “vigilante justice” and criticised the lack of police interest as running counter to efforts to get more Londoners on bikes.

He said Ms Glasius was delighted to get her bike back. “I think she was more frustrated with the police than I was,” he said.

Sean Caulfield, criminal defence solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Legally there is nothing stopping Mr Jacobs from taking matters into his own hands but he did put himself at risk of being involved in a more serious incident such as assault.

“However, it is somewhat of an open goal for the police to investigate this case given that the evidence trail is so clear. It also appears that this thief may have been involved in a number of thefts, so the police missed an opportunity to potentially solve a number of matters at once. People rightly expect the police to investigate every crime that is reported but this case reflects that the police are clearly under resourced to do so.

If, as it appears in this case, the thief is aged under 18, he may receive a youth caution or appear in the youth court but would be very unlikely to receive a custodial sentence. However, if he is aged over 18, the police would use the number of adverts placed as evidence of the level of offending and sentencing will depend on the number of bikes stolen and their value.

“The maximum sentence for theft is six years and for handling stolen goods it is 14 years however, for such sentences to be handed down the crimes would have had to have been carried out on an industrial scale.”

The Met said inquiries were continuing but no arrests had been made. A spokesman said: “Police were called by a victim of crime who told police he believed he had located his stolen bicycle for sale on a website and had arranged to meet the seller to confront him later that evening.

“Officers advised against approaching any potential suspects as, due to current demand and the unpredictable nature of policing, it would not be possible to guarantee police attendance at the location.

“In all instances, the Met would encourage victims or witnesses who are in possession of information about a criminal offence to provide that information to police and let officers progress it.”

  • An edited version of this story appeared in the Evening Standard last week.