Archive for December, 2009

New Pool to miss Olympics

December 31, 2009

The Loampit Vale website homepage have not been updated in last few weeks, it still says:

Loampit Vale was granted planning permission at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting on 10th September 2009. Barratt Homes hope to start on site before the end of the year.

And unless works start in the next few hours before midnight this hope of Barratt will not realize.

Earlier today I passed by Lewisham Shopping Centre’s car park and from there there’s a good birds’ view of the site, I didn’t have a camera with me today, but apart from the seasonal colour the site looked exactly as it did a few weeks ago when I took this pictures in October.
Works have not started and the reason is clear, the business case for the Loampit Vale development stands on a 24 storeys high tower of one bedroom flats, and last week the Times told us that:

The effect of troubles in the City can be seen in the performance of the boroughs: Greenwich, a sought-after area in South East London within easy reach of Canary Wharf and popular with younger professionals and families employed there, has suffered this year, dropping 8.7 per cent.

Mr Lewis said: “The oversupply of new-build property around the Cutty Sark and Woolwich Arsenal has partly been to blame for the dip in prices.” The nearby areas of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, also well-supplied with recently built apartment blocks marketed at first-time buyers, have also underperformed.

Three months ago, immediately after the Strategic Planning Committee unwisely voted in favour of planning consent to this scheme (Labour members for, all others against), I made here an analysis and a prediction. The analysis was that the developers are not in any hurry to start works, the prediction was that in the future a revised planning application to cut on amenities and affordable housing will be submitted.

And the fact that all was not well and that risks were high should not have been unknown to the committee members, in fact almost one year earlier, in November 2008, Sir Steve Bullock received this item telling him of a revised timetable for the delivery of the leisure centre:

5.2 Since the Mayor and Cabinet decision in July officers have been negotiating with Barratt a revision to the key terms which were proposed by Barratt in response to changing market conditions and the current economic situation with respect to the availability of credit. Other issues were also raised by Barratt but these did not result in the need to make any changes. As a result of this it has been agreed to extend the time Barratt have to deliver the new Leisure Centre from 24 to 36 months as Barratt had indicated that this was the only way they could continue with the scheme. The result of this deferment is to provide a cashflow for the scheme that is viable and enables them to continue with the scheme. Following this change contracts were exchanged with Barratt on 30th October

5.3 The time taken to negotiate the Development Agreement with Barratt had already pushed the programme back from an original planned completion date for the Leisure Centre at the end of 2010 to June 2011. This completion date was based on an assumed planning consent late January / early February 2009 with 6 months to complete outstanding S106 and Housing Corporation funding issues and clear the Judicial Review challenge period. On this basis, it was anticipated that the Development Agreement would become unconditional in June 2009 with Barratt then having 24 months to deliver the new Leisure Centre. The parties are still working to the original timetable for the Development Agreement to become unconditional. However, the 24 month period has now been extended to 36 months. Adding 12 months (on the basis of a June 2009 unconditional date) means an anticipated date for delivery of the new Leisure Centre not later than June 2012.

June 2012 is of course Olympic time for London and a new pool to celebrate it would be a great boast for Lewisham Council, but looking at the calendar today, reading the market situation for one bedroom flats and what the Mayor’s papers say about how long it takes to Barratt to build it I don’t think that anyone would bet a single penny on it happening.

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Gym to open on Hither Green Lane

December 29, 2009

It’s official!

From the Optimal Life Fitness blog:

We’ve moved into 4000sqft of warehouse space in Hither Green, London, which is just 8minutes by train from London Bridge. This means: we have a new office- yes; we have warehouse space so we never run out of our stock of bells- yes; but more importantly we have a facility and space that we can host all of our educational courses out of.

That’s right starting with our EKI on the 30th and 31st of January next year all of our London courses will be run out of the OLF Training Centre. This includes our EKI and Advanced EKI courses, our Performance Boxing, Advanced Performance Boxing courses and Olympic Weightlifting for the Fitness Professional courses, plus we’ll be launching our Straps course early in 2010.

It’s at the Firemaster building, 174-176 Hither Green Lane, in the picture the entrance of Lanier Road.
It’s quite a thought that two months ago we held there our Cinema Day on the last day that space was available. On the Monday I went there to collect the chairs to deliver them back to St Dunstan College (a big thanks to them by the way) and waiting for the van I helped to unload the track of the timber that was used to partition the space for the gym.

It’s a very big space so one can reasonably hope that besides what this gym specializes in, which is boxing and weightlifting courses, there’ll also be regular machines for the keep-fit-enough type of person and that besides the courses they run they’ll open to the general public, I have emailed them about it and will post here when I get a reply. In any case it’s very positive news for Hither Green, we need more people around, more activity, and with that we’ll have more businesses opening and a more vital and safe environment.
By the way, recently Lewisham Council approached the owner to use the space as storage for their historic record that is currently held in another space in Deptford that they will soon have to vacate because of redevelopment. That would not have helped revitalize the area much.

Timber Yard application refused

December 29, 2009

Good news!
I just received a letter from Lewisham Planning telling me that the planning application for a housing development on the Timber Yard site of Springbank Road that I had opposed has been refused.
You can read details of this development and the reasons of my objection here.

Merry Christmas internaut!

December 25, 2009

Thrilling and chilling times on Courthill Road

December 22, 2009

Braving a ridiculously cold weather and armed with stopwatches and clipboards this Sunday a team of Lewisham Libdems were joined by a handful of thermally resistant residents and timed the Courthill Road junction.
With people at each side of the junction raising a hand whenever the light they faced was red we could ascertain that there is never a moment when all lights are red for cars and the junction is safe for pedestrians to cross.

Another important observation that we could make spending half an hour there was that with intense traffic the junction becomes seriously gridlocked over and over again because just as pedestrians remain dangerously stuck halfway through the crossing, cars also remain very often stuck halfway through the junction.
Now, despite the fact that a gridlocked junction is actually quite safe to cross (unless you have a disability, carry shopping bags or push a pram of course), what this indicates is that TfL’s argument that a pedestrian light would slow down traffic doesn’t really have any merit because the junction doesn’t need any help from pedestrians to reach standstill.

But what is also important is the context of the junction. When traffic is intense all other junctions on its route are just as stuck and traffic between Catford and Lewisham (and beyond both ways) goes as slow as traffic can go, and this means that a pedestrian light wouldn’t make the Courthill Road junction a bottleneck on an otherwise flowing traffic, only a more ordered and safe junction of a road that every day at peak time receives much more traffic that it can take.
Out of peak time traffic the argument against a pedestrian light is also weak as traffic flows and cars can therefore afford the odd ten seconds to let pedestrians cross in safety.

What next? We’ll feed these data together with a stronger case for a pedestrian light at the bottom of Courthill Road to both TfL and Caroline Pidgeon AM who is chair of the Transport Committee at the London Assembly. We’ve been campaigning for a pedestrian traffic light at the bottom of Courthill Road for a long time and awareness is high, let’s keep it on the agenda of those that can make it happen.

I wrote this already but it’s worth repeating, you can help by emailing to londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk and adding your name to our online petition.


In the photo from left Tam Langley, me with a hat, Chris Maines and Andrew Milton.

On Thin Ice

December 21, 2009


This is Platform 2 of Elverson Road DLR station on Sunday 20th December, as you can see the whole platform is covered by a thin yet very hard, very even and very slippery layer of ice and this is of course extremely dangerous.
I took this photo at 12:19 pm and this means that this ice was there for the whole morning.
I appreciate that on Sundays from Elverson Road there are fewer passengers than on weekdays, but surely those few still deserve enough customer care to prevent them from slipping all the way under a passing train.

I would have thought that the DLR had been running for enough years to let somebody figure out that on Platform 2 of Elverson Road the sun doesn’t shine and the ice doesn’t melt and on days like these a bit of gritting salt must be spread on the platform.
I emailed this photo to the DLR customer services and I really hope that they’ll sort this out before their insurer finds out, or even worse.

The DLR is largely a commuters’ train, but this is no reason to neglect safety on Sundays.

Christmas Carols, mince pies and snow

December 18, 2009

The Hither Green Community Association invites everyone to join in for mince pies and Carol singing by the Clocktower at Meridian South.
The appointment is for Saturday 19th December at 1pm.

Courthill Junction timing at Christmas time

December 16, 2009

This Sunday 20th December we have an afternoon double bill of Libdem initiatives and everyone is invited to come.

The appointment is for 3pm at the trouble junction between Lewisham High Street and Courthill road SE13. There we’ll time the traffic lights and we need quite a lot of people to do this because we need someone at each traffic light of the junction plus others with stopwatches and others marking down the time.

Ideally we’ll have more than one team to double check the measurements, so please join us if you can, there’s a job for anyone, whether with the stopwatch, the clipboard or just raising a hand when the light goes red (all hands up means that the junction is safe for crossing).

This timing is a very useful exercise, it will give us a precise understanding of the way the junction works and how much time this setting provides for pedestrian crossing. The collected data will then be used by the Libdem Chair of Transport Committee at GLA Caroline Pidgeon AM to press the Mayor of London and TfL to sort out the junction and provide it with the pedestrian light we all need.
Then once the timing is done, and that shouldn’t take much more than half an hour, we all move to the nearby Jolly Farmers pub to examine the collected data and… Christmas drinks.

The video here below shows well what’s the issue with the junction, about halfway through the video there is a 20 seconds window to cross but without light you can’t know it, then a woman crosses and does it quite dangerously, as many do every day.
In the past TfL rejected calls for a pedestrian crossing with the argument that it would slow down traffic, this is surely wrong for the reason that it puts cars before safety, but also it seems that there could already be some windows of opportunity to cross in safety, only that without a green light pedestrians can’t possibly know that.

Do something fun and useful this Sunday. Join us in Courthill Road.

The Ladywell Pool changing rooms debate

December 14, 2009

There are two letters about Ladywell Pool in this week’s Mercury, and both in response to a previous letter about the pool.
One is mine, the same that was published the previous week in the South London Press, the other is instead by a woman mostly saying the opposite of what my letter says, and that is actually quite funny. I guess that many readers that don’t have experience of Ladywell Pool will be thinking “who’s right?”.

In my letter I wrote among other things:

The way Labour-run Lewisham has kept the centre for years is nothing short of scandalous.
Still, the current manager is proactive.
There is work to be done but the place is in a better shape than it has been for many years.
Let me claim a share of the merit for the scrutiny that the Save Ladywell Pool Campaign has exercised.
The pool itself has clean water and offers a swimming experience that’s superior to most modern pools, as a large number of regular users can testify.

The other Mercury reader instead writes that (link to letter):

It is a public health issue. You only need to go to Ladywell to see what I mean.
I also have some damning photos taken inside the ladies’ changing rooms recently (scum, more scum, faeces, clumps of hair etc).
I am in full support of the Loampit Vale development.
It will provide a decent public pool facility for everyone in Lewisham.

I actually never understood the argument that because the changing rooms are dirty then you need to demolish a pool and build a new one. Do you blow up your house when it gets a bit messy? I suppose not, I guess you just get on and clean it. So why would a pool be any different?
As I said in my letter the water of the pool itself is actually clean, the water treatment plant was refurbished at the cost of £150k during the 2002-04 refurbishment. The legionella bacteria found at the pool had instead formed in the pipeworks of the showers, which is a separate system from the pool itself and was old and had been badly patched up during the decades, but that has now been replaced too.

I personally never campaigned for Ladywell Pool to be kept going in eternity, I campaigned for continuity of provision, for the pool to be kept open only until the replacement is built and operative, but I am not supportive of what the Council has planned for the reason that it will not be big enough for all, as I also explained in my letter:

The advice upon which the council based its sizing fails to accommodate the current users of Ladywell besides the thousands who will come and live around the new centre, not to mention that the impact of the transport interchange and the nearness of residents from the London Borough of Greenwich were also not taken into account.
In short, the centre is not bigger than Ladywell but the population to accommodate is – and by a great number.
As Ladywell Pool is currently working to capacity, then inevitably someone will be left out.

As for the cleanliness of the changing rooms, for obvious reasons I have never been in the Ladies’ changing rooms, but I have complained about the males changing rooms in the past and I think that things have improved. I heard from many women about their plight and was asked many times to tell the manager about the issue, which I did more than once.
Here are my notes from a meeting I had with the then manager in 2008:

Improvements have been done to the female changing room and there’s now a dedicated part time cleaner for the female changing rooms. He’d love to be notified by users if female changing rooms are in need of a clean. He can’t go in there, almost all personnel is male (this is an industry-wide problem) and if the female life-guards say that the changing rooms are dirty then they are sent to clean them and that’s not much of an incentive for them.

I can’t find my notes of the meeting I had a few months ago with the current manager (who is a woman and can therefore visit the ladies’ changing rooms) but I raised the issue again and she told me of a £25k budget this year to spend on the female changing rooms and as I wrote in my letter to the press I think she’s doing a good job but of course I can only speak about the male changing rooms.

There has always been a lot of discontent about the changing rooms, even from supporters of the pool, and especially women.
I think that there are various issues at play here.
One is the obvious argument that they are dirty at times and they need better cleaning.
But besides that I think that there is also an issue of perception and expectations.
The decor of the changing rooms is not great, they’re worn out 60’s changing rooms, basic but a bit grotty and even when just cleaned they don’t really shine. I’ve been to Downham Pool and I found the changing rooms quite dirty actually, obviously not cleaned carefully in the corners, and yet since it’s new and airy and bright it looks better than what it is.
The other consideration is about what we should expect from public pools. When you shower chances are that between you and the last time the shower was scrubbed a few tens of people showered in the same place. I see the attendants cleaning quite often and doing a decent job too. But there are hair in the shower, and many users do leave a mess behind them, and it stays there until someone cleans it, and in the meantime you’ll stare at it. I too recently found a turd in the plate as I entered the toilet, it wasn’t mine but I flushed it. I could have taken a picture of it but somehow didn’t think about it. I remember it clearly not because I was particularly shocked by it but because I and other swimmers in the changing room mowned at length about people that don’t flush and fantasized about what we’d do to them (things you chat about at the pool).
But there is also some responsibility of the Council, if the changing rooms were better looking then people would treat them better, that’s what always happens and it really wouldn’t cost a fortune to make them a nice and welcoming environment.

To finish, Ladywel Pool is owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, why would ever Loampit Vale Pool, again owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, have cleaner changing facilities? Just look at Downham Pool, quite new and not particularly clean.

Recently posters inviting people to shower before swimming have appeared in the changing rooms, I’d make that compulsory actually, to avoid the hair in the shower you just need to wear slippers, to avoid what people bring with them inside the pool you need a bodysuit, and that’s not really practical.

Catford to be nationalized behind closed doors

December 14, 2009

Just as we celebrate the liberation of the expenses’ list Lewisham Council’s bosses instead decide that the papers for this week’s extraordinary Full Council Meeting regarding the proposal to buy the Catford Centre for redevelopment are all confidential i.e. not for you and me.
This is all we’re allowed to know:

It is recommended that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 12(A) of the Act, as amended by the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2006 and the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information:-

I’m really not happy about this.
There may be reasons to keep discussions confidential, but there are all sorts of meetings at Council where they can flesh out deals without the public and the press nosing around, and this is particularly true for boroughs that adopted the Executive Mayor system like Lewisham.
The wrap of confidentiality at Full Council meeting means that if any member of the Council has an objection to the deal he or she will be unable to tell us why.

Victory on Councillors’ expenses transparency

December 12, 2009

From this week’s News Shopper:

A Council spokesman said:
“Papers published ahead of the standards committee did include a full list of councillors’ allowances and claims for expenses.
“However, these were not included on our website due to an oversight. We are grateful to the News Shopper for drawing this to our attention and details are now available online.

Can you smell it? It’s the sweet smell of victory!
After having been available from this blog as online exclusive the Councillors’ expenses list is now finally available from the Council’s own website (appendix 2 to item 6 at the bottom of this page).

Thanks to all those that signed the petition and joined the Facebook group. We didn’t get the official Council Spokesman’s thanks but we can surely pat each other on the back.
A big thanks goes to the News Shopper for picking up the story and helping us to make Lewisham Council more transparent.

Courthill Road Junction campaign

December 11, 2009

One of the issues that affect many residents of Lewisham Central and users of Ladywell Pool is the devilish pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Courthill Road at the junction with Lewisham High Street. Recently a very serious accident took place there and a woman was run over by a car, she was badly hurt but fortunately survived. Do we have to wait for a fatality before a pedestrial traffic light is provided?

Here’s a video I took a few months ago, it shows how in absence of a traffic light for pedestrians it’s actually near impossible to cross in safety. Cars can come at you from 4 different directions and as it happens most people have only two eyes. I’ve been crossing that road most days for about 11 years and I still don’t know which way to look.

About halfway through the video there is a window of about 20 seconds where it is possible to cross, only that without traffic light one cannot know if it is safe or not and for how long, maybe cars are not coming from some direction not because traffic lights are holding them but because there aren’t cars from there in that moment. With so many possible ways to have incoming traffic it’s very difficult to understand that and it does happen that just as you start crossing someone speeds in front of you, you just cannot know, you can’t see their traffic light.
Then just as the traffic restarts a woman wants to cross, notice how at first she is unsure about when to start crossing, and then after she starts crossing and reaches the middle of the road cars start to move, but again she cannot know if they’re going straight or turning into Courthill Road so she has a moment of hesitation and waits in the middle of the road with cars running near her until she finally finds the moment to cross the second half of the road.
It’s crazy, that’s the normal way to cross Courthill Road.

A few months ago me and Libdem Councillors Chris Maines, Andrew Milton and Dave Edgerton went to City Hall and delivered to Mayor Boris a 600 signatures strong petition asking him to give us the traffic light we need. The petition sheets were handed in by Caroline Pidgeon AM who is the Libdem Chair of the Transport Committee of the GLA.

We were then told by TfL that they were studying possible solutions but since a few months have passed and I haven’t heard anything about it I just sent another email to TfL asking for an update and I’ll post here any reply I receive.
You can do the same by emailing to londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk and in case you have not done so yet you can add your name to our online petition, the more people sign it the bigger the pressure we can put on TfL.

Spotted Cow consultation this Wednesday

December 8, 2009


The former Spotted Cow Pub in Hither Green Lane is a very distinctive building that has considerable historic significance for the area and the fact that it is not working anymore as a pub is to me a major concern as it makes that end of Hither Green Lane much less vital than it once was.
Anyway, it ceased trade a couple of years ago and was sold to London and Quadrant Housing Association that last year submitted a planning application for demolition and new built. This was forcefully opposed by the Hither Green Community Association and the proposal was withdrawn.

Now London and Quadrant are submitting a new proposal that promises to be sympathetic with what’s good in the local streetscape as it seeks to convert the building into residential accommodation instead of demolishing it.
The proposal is for 16 accommodations ranging from 1 to 3 bedroom flats.
I struggle to see how can 16 flats fit in that building ( without using Tardis technology) so I really look forward to see the plans tomorrow.
The proposal will be available for viewing on Wednesday 9th December 2009 between 4pm and 8pm at Hither Green Baptist Church, Theodore Road, SE13 6HT.

Update on 10th December:

I was there yesterday and had a very long conversation with one of the architects and I have to say I left rather reassured about this development. It’s much better than last years plans, it’s actually the work or a different firm of architects that in my opinion did make an effort to fit something modern in a way that works with the existing surroundings.
They had a few options that they had studied and one preferred option that they want to submit for planning consent.
This involves converting the Spotted Cow into flats and building three houses of the same height alongside Thornford Road, with gardens on the back. The new buildings will have the same width of the semi-detached houses that front the Spotted Cow on Hither Green Lane and will also have the same distance between floors as the Spotted Cow which visually will result in the same horizontal lines running across the Spotted Cow then continued in the new blocks. This also means that the new flats will have unusually high ceilings for a new development.
Each house will have one 2 bedroom flat at ground floor, 2 one bedroom flats at the first floor and another 2 bedroom flat at the top floor.

I forgot to ask about car parking that is always a burning issue but picked up the plans and on the ground floor sheet it looks like they want to have to the side of the Spotted cow one car parking space and 7 bicycle racks.

I scanned the page with 4 views of the preferred option, here it is.
One note, the plans show an underground floor to be derived by digging deeper in the cellar of the Spotted Cow, the architect told me that this idea has been abandoned so the Spotted Cow would look from the road exactly as it looks today.


I hope the architects don’t mind me posting the drawings here, I think it’s ok, they were for public viewing after all.
Here are the details of the architects should you want to comment and ask more information:
http://emolipetroschka.co.uk/contact.html

Catford to be nationalized

December 7, 2009

Lewisham Council has apologized to the people of Catford for the Plessy Road Retail Island, Eros House and Milford Towers.
“What were we thinking?” said a tearful Town Hall spokesperson.

“We’ll make it all up now, we have a plan”
continued the crazy-eyed spokesperson laughing “we buy Catford Centre and make it beautiful!”

This high rise high density housing high quality development will be presented at a special Council meeting on 16th December.

If you want to know more then consult the Catford Centre Action Plan, for ease of consultation the document has been divided into 8 different parts. As if that wasn’t enough all possible options for development are listed and a reading key to understand which statements are true and which are false is provided separately.
I’m not making this up, here’s an extract from chapter 4.7, they could have just written that they want to increase density and build higher, but everyone can do that, here’s how you write that proper if you work for Lewisham Planning:

4.7.1 Options considered
The following housing options were put
forward:
1. Shop-top housing
A. Promote housing above ground floor shops (shop-top housing)
B. Do not promote/permit shop-top housing

2. Density
A. Support taller buildings and more intensive development
B. Maintain current density/housing levels
C. Promote housing as part of the development of opportunity sites
D. Ensure that the redevelopment of existing housing results in the overall provision of the same or more housing on the site

4.7.2 Preferred option
The preferred option is to proceed with additions 1A, 2A, 2C and 2D.

Letter in the South London Press

December 6, 2009

On Friday the South London Press published this letter of mine about the new pool at Loampit Vale.

Dangers of delegation

December 4, 2009

One item approved without too much fuss by Lewisham Council last week was a scheme of delegation so that officers can take decisions without Mayoral consent.
(Documents here, item 11 and appendixes)
This was presented as a way to make the Council efficient and as a formal recognition of the status quo that only updates on an existing similar scheme already present in the Constitution.
It all sounded very reasonable, in fact it got me a bit suspicious, too reasonable, especially when you read through the documentation and discovered that Heads of Directorate have the power to authorize movements of up to £500k within their budgets without Mayoral consent and that with the consent of the Head of Resources the same amounts can be moved across Directorates’ budgets.
This Council document expressely calls this manouvers “virements” and eplains them like this:

A Virement is a transfer of a budget from the purposes for which Council originally voted in setting the budget and Council Tax to another purpose.

Am I right to see big danger here? The Council could approve a budget that has consensus and then on day two officers can start to move large sums and doing the budget they like, even if this means moving away from the budget the Council intended and possibly starving important services that are not statutory and that therefore don’t necessarily get them big brownie points with auditors.

I am not an expert on delegation schemes, only that reading this Council’s decision made me think of possible negative consequences of this scheme. Is it normal practice that officers can move up to £500k without approval at political level?
And if these large changes to the budget do take place without them leaving a mark on the papers approved by the Mayor then how can the public (or even the Overview and Scrutiny committee) ever come to know they ever happened?

New Cafe to open on Hither Green Lane and Crazy Golf sneak peek

December 2, 2009

An update type of post on the highly improvable state of trade in Hither Green.

First piece of news, according to a very reliable source of information a Cafe (!!!) will open on Hither Green Lane in one of the empty units next to the chemist by February next year!
The other units will be occupied too, one of them by the Jimmy Mizen Foundation.

You read it here first!

Meanwhile at Meridian South…

…the Crazy Golf course is being prepared!
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago, so works should be more advanced now and hopefully it will open soon.
Will Hither Green become known as the home of London’s crazy golf? Will the crazy golf put Hither Green “on the map”?
Well, it will certainly do its bit to help and it’s a crazy idea and I do like crazy ideas. It looks like there actually is a gap in the market, so why not?
Best of luck to the management.

Lewisham Hospital embarrassed by score for patients’ safety

December 1, 2009

The Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust has scored 3.43 out of 100(!) ending third from the bottom in the list of Hspital Trusts in Britain for patients’ safety.

Dr Foster’s Hospital Guide for 2009 has revealed that death rates in English NHS hospitals have fallen by seven per cent last year, but that quality of care remains a postcode lottery. The Hospital Guide gives NHS hospital trusts a score out of 100 based on analysis of a range of “safety indicators”, which include surgical errors, deaths, infection rates and staffing levels.

Now, I don’t think Lewisham Hospital is perfect, but third from the bottom in Britain is a hard one to swallow for everyone. Not something to be taken lightly, because they’re the bad ones that get closed. The raw numbers of cases of death do paint a picture of a place where you die a bit more easily from certain conditions than the average, and all other London Hospital scored better, and by some measure.

That said, reading around the report it doesn’t look like there is such a difference between how Lewisham Hospital performed and the national average to justify such bad scoring, in fact there are even a few indicators where Lewisham Hospital performs better than average.

But whatever the reason I think that we better take this seriously and by coupling this report findings with a little local knowledge we’d end up with a better local hospital, for example, there are a few detailed breakdowns clicking around the report of how the hospital responds to each one of the most common health issues and how this compare with the national average, one thing that jumps out is that on many of the indicators of treatment of heart condition the report says that the data for Lewisham Hospital is not available.
Is this evidence of the urban legend that wants that ambulances carrying people with heart attacks do not bring their patients to Lewisham even if they’re picked up on its doorstep because they know that they’re not equipped for that?
If that’s the reason then this is the opportunity to act on that.

Lewisham Hospital’s bosses are understandably shocked by the scoring and have been very cautious with words, but no doubt with such a scoring some sort of response will have to follow.
Lewisham Council plays an important role of scrutiny of the Health delivery for the area through its Healthier Communities Committee of which our local Councillor Andrew Milton is a member. I sat through one of their committees and it’s actually quite humbling for the complexity of the issues examined and I think it’s the only committee of Lewisham Council that has a say on the delivery done by an external body.
This is a report they’ll have to go through with a fine comb.