Sunday, December 09, 2012

Responding to the TSA consultation

With 4 days to go, it's time to get on with completing the response to the consultation on the Trust Special Adminstrator's report that recommends closing Lewisham hospital A&E and maternity services.

Clicking on the link above takes you to the TSA's landing page for the consultation process, you need to click on option one to use the online response form, which takes you through to Ipsos MORI's online document which you complete by clicking through and filing it in page by page. Save Lewisham Hospital have a guide to help you if any of it isn't clear.

Note that the TSA's office make it quite clear that this isn't a vote (or a referendum which is a term Kershaw used in one of the meetings I attended) on the proposals and is merely intended to refine them. They even say that they will be using "a wide range of other information" as well as the responses when they are putting together the final report (which begs the question why this information hasn't been made available to the public in order to allow us to responde more fully of course....). This pretty much gives them carte blanche to ignore what's said, but that shouldn't stop all of us from putting forward our views - this is pretty much the only chance we'll get!

For Q1 and Q2 I put 'strongly disagree' and in Q3 I added the following comment: SLHT is actually performing above the national average on efficiency according to the 2012 Good Hospital Guide from Doctor Foster.

For Qs4-6 I personally have no detailed knowledge to add, or views either way, so I answered accordingly.

I strongly opposed the sale of NHS buildings (Q7 and Q8). NHS buildings should not be sold off - once this is done there is no getting them back and they may well be needed in future years.

I think that the DH should provide funds to pay off PFI debt, in the absence of a full renegotiation (which isn't being proposed) so I answered Qs9 and 10 accordingly.

On community care I have no particular opinions or knowledge and answered these questions accordingly.

Q13 relates to closing Lewisham A&E - not that you would know it from the way the question is worded - you have to work out by omission that an A&E is being lost here! I strongly opposed this option and in Q14 added the following comments: Lewisham hospital needs to retain a full admitting A&E for the following reasons:

1. One A&E to serve a population of 750,000 is not sufficient.
2. QEH is poorly served by public transport whereas Lewisham is well-served and accessible.
3. A full admitting A&E is needed to support a full maternity service at Lewisham.

Q15 is asking about Lewisham maternity services - here I clicked that I did not support either option. In Q16 I added the following: Lewisham hospital needs to retain a full maternity service, supported by an A&E. The closure of these services saves less than £17m a year, a tiny amount in the context of what would be lost if these services were to close. Lewisham deals with 4,400 births a year, expected to rise to 5,000 within three years. There simply is not space to accommodate these births elsewhere and it is essential for mothers to be close to home for visiting and for an A&E to be on site in case anything goes wrong. Expecting mothers who have recently given birth to travel long distances to visit their babies in hospital, should the situation arise that their baby had to stay in hospital and they are discharged, is simple unacceptable.

On Q17 and 18 which relate to planned care I have no opinions or knowledge to bring, so I skipped these.

On Q19 I said I had no particular views, Q20 - I tend to support the merger of Lewisham and QEH, providing this doesn't mean the loss of necessary services at either hospital. On Q21 I supported King's taking over the PRUH, on the basis that this is better than it being given to a private provider. I strongly agree with Q22, that DH should write off the debt accumulated by SLHT.

Q23 can be skipped, and in Q24 I added the following about the whole process: The consultation period has not been long enough for the full range of information to be made available to the public.

I strongly oppose cutting services at Lewisham hospital, which has been well run and managed, in order to resolve debts in SLHT. The NHS as a whole has been running with a surplus, and some of that money should be used rather than cutting essential services.

Q25 onwards asks for some information about you, which you have to answer. Save Lewisham hospital suggest that (even if it is the case) you don't say that Lewisham is your nearest hospital, or that you live in Lewisham, so that the TSA cannot portray your views as NIMBYism.

Once you've done all that you can submit your response! It takes a bit longer than the 10 minutes they suggest, even if you aren't blogging it at the same time...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Almost 7 times as many tourists as commuters are using the cable car during the week

London’s newest commuter route/tourist attraction opened to the public on 28 June this year. I was lucky enough to travel on it on its very first day of opening, and very lovely it is too. I was also lucky enough to use it a few times during the Olympics and enjoyed every second.

The cable car has, however, been billed by Boris and TfL as a "vital new river crossing for east London", not a tourist attraction, and indeed this was the justification for using public money to assist in its contruction.

Of course, as the adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – so how have people been using the cable car, or dangleway as it’s affectionately known, and for what purpose? Well, the good folks at The Scoop have posted about this, most recently looking at hourly numbers of users by day, which tell their own story. The chart below is based on the data obtained by The Scoop under the Freedom of Information Act and published earlier this week.

The blue lines represent use at the weekend, the others weekday use. This vital river crossing is clearly being used as a tourist attraction, with peak numbers on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

There are small numbers using it in the weekday mornings too (masked by the vastly larger numbers using at weekends on the chart), but how do those numbers compare with those using the tube/DLR to make the equivalent journey? I crunched the figures obtained by The Scoop to look at this in more detail.

* average for the hours of 10:00-19:00 calculated excluding Tuesday 16 October when the cable car was closed due to adverse weather conditions.

These “average use” figures show that on the cable car user numbers build slowly during the morning peak and jump dramatically after 10am. The tube/DLR, by contrast, has a spike in the number of users between 09:00 and 09:59, presumably commuters. Numbers then drop to a low level, climbing slowly but steadily through the rest of the day. But only during the 07:00-07:59 period do numbers using the tube/DLR match or exceed those using the cable car. Cable car user numbers peak in the mid morning-early afternoon and then decline towards the end of operations. This clearly suggests that the cable car appeals as a tourist attraction during the week as well as at weekends (albeit at a lower overall level than seen on the weekends).

The data obtained by The Scoop also, by sheer good fortune, allow us an insight into what happens to tube/DLR use when the cable car is closed. My hypothesis is that when the cable car is closed, urgent journeys transfer to the equivalent routes on the tube/DLR whereas non-urgent or leisure journeys are either not made or are delayed. 

So what happened on 16 October? The first chart shown above shows that there was a clear spike in use on 16 October after the cable car reopened – a spike which is not seen on any of the other weekdays at this time - that we can reasonably assume to be due to the closure and subsequent reopening.

Looking at hourly user figures for 16 October for the tube/DLR while the cable car was closed and comparing them to average figures for the same hours of the day during the rest of that week tells its own story. Tube/DLR journeys did indeed increase during the hours that the cable car was closed.

Number of users of tube/DLR and cable car on Tuesday 16 October, compared with average use on the other four weekdays in that week, 15-19 October 2012

Hour of use


Average weekday
Tues 16th
Cable car journeys replaced by tube/DLR
Cable car

Average weekday
Tues 16th
Cable car journeys delayed
Source: author analysis of data from TfL obtained via

For example, between 12:00 and 12:59 on 16 October, 28 people used the tube/DLR to make a journey equivalent to that covered by the cable car, compared with an average of 11.25 people making that same journey on the other days of the week. This picture continues even after the cable car reopens between 1600 and 1659. I estimate that over the period 10:00-15:59 46 journeys that would have been made on the cable car were instead made by tube/DLR. Contrast that with over 300 journeys that were delayed until after the cable car reopened. This suggests that almost 7 times as many weekday off-peak journeys on the cable car are potentially for leisure rather than non-leisure purposes.

Some might call this a triumph – an attraction that wasn’t asked for, built in a location no one thinks is sensible or necessary is attracting leisure users on wet weekdays in October? All well and good except that we’ve paid for it out of our taxes and are getting charged through the nose to use it! Time to bring the dangleway in from the cold and start including it in Oyster PAYG caps and travelcards. Then we might start to believe it’s a mode of public transport as well as a tourist attraction.